From Naples News.com
Naples teen used prom dress to raise money after Irma, gives proceeds to Guadalupe Center
While many teenage girls spend weeks planning their outfits for prom, a Naples teen spent her time fundraising in a unique way for those in need after Hurricane Irma.
Aubrey Garcia, a 17-year-old junior at Golden Gate High School, witnessed firsthand the aftermath of Irma and found a way to help by selling blocks of advertising space on her prom dress.
“I saw the devastation and people not having homes anymore,” Garcia said. “I felt really helpless and I wanted to do something.”
Garcia, who runs cross-country for her school, said she came up with the idea to sell advertising space on her prom dress after seeing other runners wearing T-shirts with advertisements.
“I would see a lot of people who would advertise things on the back of their shirts and stuff like that and I thought, ‘What if I did that on my prom dress?’ ” she said.
After getting approval from her parents and the school, Garcia set her hopes high by reaching out to big corporations first.
“I sent a lot of letters, emails and even went knocking on doors for donations,” she said. “I sent like 200 letters — it was a lot.”
Garcia said she didn’t have any luck reaching out to larger corporations but received a total of $1,550 in donations from eight local companies, including the Barron Collier Companies, FOX4, Remnant Construction, Goodyear, the Maurizi family, S&J Renovations, Asset Management Solutions and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Garcia said the largest amount donated was for $200 each from Barron Collier Companies, Remnant Construction and Asset Management Solutions.
As prom approached, Garcia began making her dress — first purchasing a two-piece skirt and top from Amazon.
She then used fabric paper to print the company logos with her printer at home.
“It was kind of crafty,” she said. “I added glitter to make it look nice.”
Golden Gate High held its prom on April 28 at the Hilton Naples, and Garcia wore the long, flowing black skirt with a white sleeveless top. The eight logos were pinned at the bottom of the skirt.
“Everybody is so stuck on graduation and prom, and what they want to wear,” Garcia said. “They all wondered, ‘Why are you wearing logos?’ After they found out, though, most of them thought it was a cool idea.”
Garcia said she decided to donate the proceeds to the Guadalupe Center after hearing good things about the nonprofit organization from one of her teachers.
“On prom night, most students are focused on their hair, makeup and transportation,” Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center, said in a release. “She was more concerned with using that special night to create an opportunity to help others in the community. She wanted to send a strong message that we need to look beyond ourselves.”
The Guadalupe Center, whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for children in Immokalee, selected Barbara St. Fleur, a 2018 graduate at Immokalee High School, to receive the funds to pay for a new laptop for St. Fleur to go to college with.
According to a release, St. Fleur’s laptop was severely damaged during the hurricane and she needed a new one before heading to Arcadia University in Pennsylvania on a full scholarship.
“They (the Guadalupe Center) made sure all the money went to a girl who needed a laptop to go to college with, and the rest of the money is going toward new houses they are building for people who lost theirs,” Garcia said.
Garcia presented St. Fleur with a new HP laptop last week.
“You usually don’t hear about a dress or fashion unless a person is wearing something inappropriate, so for her to use her prom dress for a good cause is amazing,” St. Fleur said.
Garcia plans to attend college after high school and would like to become a physical therapist. She will attend a medical program at Florida State University this summer.