Last year, North Port High School juniors didn’t have a prom.
This year, as seniors, the high school’s official prom is going to be a sit-down dinner. At the Sarasota County Schools-sanctioned event, seniors aren’t allowed to dance and juniors aren’t invited.
After learning their seniors couldn’t dance, Barbara Gilley and Catherine Farese turned to the new nonprofit When All Else Fails, along with the Kiwanis Club of North Port and Kyle Kurtis. Together, the team is sponsoring an alternative prom, set for 6 p.m. to midnight May 22 at Plantation Golf & Country Club, 500 Rockley Blvd., Venice.
Tickets are on sale now.
“We are trying to raise enough money to make the tickets extremely affordable for the seniors and their dates,” Gilley said. “If we raise enough, we can put on the whole prom for free.”
The team is collecting gowns, purses, accessories, hair and make-up for any prom-goers who need it.
Farese has been collecting bridesmaid and age-appropriate gowns.
Kyle Kurtis salon donated more than a dozen dresses and plans to work with students on hairdos for the prom.
“We are going to have three days when students can come get anything they want for the prom,” said Justin Willis, executive director of When All Else Fails. “We know going to the prom can be expensive, but there’s things we are doing to help students. We welcome them to come together with friends and take what they like to outfit them for the prom.”
All week, Gilley solicited donations and she bought scratch off tickets and liquor bottle donations for a $20 raffle to help raise money to rent the venue, pay for the DJ, decorations and other costs.
“We are trying to reach out to as many seniors as possible,” Willis said. “We don’t want to confuse anyone. We will have dinner, a great dessert buffet and then a couple hours of dancing. We are decorating with a glow theme and black lights. It’s going to look really elegant and then when the lights go out, it will turn into a party with a professional photographer, photo booth and more dessert.”
Willis said the group is following CDC guidelines and hopes some students will be vaccinated before the event.
A Gofundme account was established. Students can also pay by Venmo.
“When Lemon Bay High School’s prom got canceled, they had a very special gift given to them by Danny Duncan,” Willis said. “We would love to have someone so caring to help us finalize our prom. We have to raise $22,000 in less than a month. We just want the seniors and their guests to have a more normal prom with meaningful memories. Our students really do matter to us and our community.”
For more information, search for When All Else Fails on Facebook.