EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 19, 2013

Merrimack Valley girls to the rescue in NY

High school seniors collect prom dresses for teens affected by Hurricane Sandy

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — While they prepare for their own prom in May, three students from Andover High are also making sure teenagers affected by Hurricane Sandy will also have their own nights to remember.

Stephanie Martinez, Marina Norton and Angelice Gonzalez, all seniors at Andover High donated 15 dresses for teenagers in Brooklyn, Queens and Rockaway in New York.

Carol Lanni, founder of the Priceless Gown Program used social media to find programs in New York by posting a message on Donatemydress.org in December offering to assist Hurricane Sandy programs in getting gowns. Three of them accepted in February — Princess Chambers in the Bronx, LACE Leading Ladies in Manhattan and Wgirls.org in Queens.

On Thursday, Lanni will drive a van to New York with 15 boxes filled with 20 to 30 gowns and dresses, donated by students in Andover, members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions at North Andover High School and Newburyport who led a drive in November and December. The program has also received donations from Ruth’s House in Haverhill. Lanni has also packed up dresses from the racks at Priceless Prom Gowns programs located at The Stone Mill, 15 Union St.

“This is the poor, helping the poor, helping the poor,” Lanni said.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said board member Carol Byrne of Andover. “If it was us, I’m sure someone would do the same.”

Lanni founded Priceless Prom Gown in 2006 while working at Greater Lawrence Technical School. The non-profit organization collects gowns for students who cannot afford them to help them go to prom.

In addition to helping the teenagers in New York, local seniors will get a chance to get a dress when Priceless Prom Gown Program hosts its ‘Boutique Days’ April 6 and 27 at 5 p.m.

Lanni had a personal reason for starting the program.

Growing up in a single-parent home in East Boston, she said everything she wore to her prom was either borrowed or handed down.

In addition to Lanni, board members are Carol Byrne, a jewelry artist of Andover; Penelope Guerrero, of Haverhill, a shoe designer with Timberlane, and Pam Lundstrom, who pounds the pavement looking for donations.

Lundstrom of Andover can sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy as her sister lives in New Orleans and some of the homes around her’s were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s more than getting a dress. It’s giving them hope and faith in mankind,” Lundstrom said.

Gonzalez agrees.

“We want to get dresses for them so they can have their prom, so it could be memorable,” Gonzalez said.

Norton donated three dresses imported from China.

“It’s a beautiful dress. I might as well have someone have them to show them someone cares and wants them to have an experience they may not have been able to have otherwise,” Norton said.

Donations sought Gas cards for the round trip to New York Gowns and dresses, especially in large sizes Gift certificates to local hair and nail salons where the teenagers can get dolled up for the prom The donations can be dropped off at Priceless Prom Gowns at The Stone Mill, 15 Union St., Lawrence Fundraising event Comedy night, May 9 at Marias' Restaurant, 81 Essex St., Haverhill featuring a raffle for a three-night stay on Martha's Vineyard. Also, second prize is a chef preparing and serving a meal at your home for up to six guests. Third prize is an in-studio photo shoot with an 11x14 portrait included.