Photo courtesy of NewYork-Presbyterian Queens
NewYork-Presbyterian Queens staff helped high school students choose their perfect prom outfit at its first-ever Prom Closet event held on April 24.

Staff and volunteers at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital in Flushing helped high school students choose garments for their prom at its first-ever Prom Closet event held on April 24.

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens welcomed 112 students from local high schools to its Prom Closet to select dresses and suits for upcoming prom night, graduation ceremonies and job interviews thanks to generous donations by hospital employees.

The students had 297 dresses and 140 suits to choose from at the event, as well as shoes, purses, jewelry, brand-new makeup and ties.

“We encouraged all of the students to take home outfits like a little black dress or the perfect tie and shirt combination that will help them build a professional and formal wardrobe for whatever their futures may bring,” said Jacqueline P. Cahill, director of Volunteer Services at New York-Presbyterian Queens.

The students were from Lexington School for the Deaf, Thomas Edison High School, Forest Hills High School, Flushing International High School and John Bowne High School.

“Out of the 297 dresses that we collected, we were able to match 136 of those gowns to young ladies,” said Cahill. “We did the same thing to the boys. We were able to match 64 boys with full suits … and give them extra shirts, pants and ties to go on these interviews. We are setting them up for success.”

According to Cahill, who works with the schools in the community, the idea for a Prom Closet stemmed from a member of her team at the hospital who had participated in a similar event at her church.

“Throughout Queens and Brooklyn there are hundreds of students living in shelters or temporary housing,” said Cahill. “Many families cannot afford to send their children to prom because of the cost of outfits and the tickets. In hopes of taking part of financial burden off the parents, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens hosted a Prom Closet offering these students.”

Cahill added, “It was an emotional night because there was a lot of crying going on. One little girl said, ‘I’ve never been able to wear anything so pretty’ and her mom happened to be there hugging everybody and she said to me, ‘Jackie, we don’t live paycheck to paycheck. We don’t live dollar to dollar. We live from penny to penny. So having the hospital do this for us is amazing.’”

Cahill said they’re looking forward to hosting another successful Prom Closet event next year and maybe a “My First Interview” or “Dress for Success” event.

“We want to invite not only the children that are graduating but we can also invite the parents that are living in these shelters or temporary housing to come and get outfits to go on interviews and get jobs that can help them better where they’re living,” said Cahill.

Aside from prom garments, the hospital team also provided a table filled with everyday clothes such as jeans and dresses, said Cahill.

“A girl left with four bags of stuff. She was so excited,” said Cahill. “We had other students who were just so thrilled. A young man actually left wearing a three-piece suit donated by a friend of mine and he said, ‘I’m never taking this thing off.’”

Cahill said being able to give back was an amazing experience and watching the kids’ transformation preparing for the biggest night of their young lives.

“This truly was an amazing event and it took a team to make it work. I am so grateful I was able to lead this team and that the results were out of this world,” said Cahill. “This was completely different. Just watching these kids pick out dresses and shoes, and outfits from top to bottom … Watching them turn into young women and men, it was truly an emotional night.”

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