By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
The second and final day of the sixth annual Kyrsten’s Kloset fundraiser, an event at which young women can get free prom or formal dresses plus accessories, is from noon to 4 p.m. today at 110 Orchard Ave., the former Roosevelt Elementary.
The event is hosted by the Kyrsten Elizabeth Studer Foundation in honor of Kyrsten Studer, who was killed by a drunk driver on April 4, 2003. Had she lived, Kyrsten would have turned 31 on April 16.
Appropriately, the only price for the dress is to sign a pledge to not drink and drive.
For Kyrsten’s family and friends, the event is bittersweet.
“Giving back helps with the grief, but nothing will ever make it easier,” said Kyrsten’s sister, Sarah Studer, founder of Kyrsten’s Kloset.
“We’re glad we can help people in need, but the gowns are for anyone. What really matters is that they pledge to not drink and drive,” said Sarah of Hubbard, who estimated that over the six years 3,000 dresses have been given away.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, 75 dresses had been given away, said Janine Bellino Bahler, who was with Kyrsten when she was struck and killed.
“It was absolutely awful, but it shaped my life. You never know,” said Bahler, a close friend of Kyrsten and one of the many volunteers at the event.
“I’m a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley in Boardman. I love what I do. I feel I’m on this earth to give back,” said Bahler, a 2007 graduate of Hubbard High School and a recipient of a bachelor of science in nursing from Youngstown State University.
“Kyrsten’s Kloset is very difficult for me because it brings back memories,” said her father, Bryan Studer.
“Kyrsten loved dressing up. She would be very proud because all of the girls we’re helped,” he said.
“It happens every year. Someone leaves in tears because they know their daughter can be dressed up for a prom or some other event,” said Bryan.
“Every time someone walks out of here with a dress, I feel they are taking a part of Kyrsten with them. For me, it’s a chance for Kyrsten to experience all the dances she never got to go to,” he said.
“She was a lovable, mischievous girl,” said her grandfather, Joseph Scarvell of Hubbard, who used to teach history and speech at Farrell (Pa.) High School.
“Sometimes the pain is so extreme, her death seems like yesterday. Losing a child is the height of pain,” said Kyrsten’s grandmother, Joanne Scarvell.
“When I watch the girls as they look for dresses, I think someplace Kyrsten is giggling and enjoying this. Maybe this was her purpose in life,” said Joanne.
While Kyrsten’s Kloset gives both joy and pain to those who were close to her, the young women who came from all over the area shopping for a gown had the usual problem, even though it was free, of picking the one — or to paraphrase the title of a popular television show, saying yes to the dress.
One such young lady was Sadie Mink of Hadley, Pa., a junior at Commodore Perry High School.
Sadie, who was accompanied by her mother, Christa Mink, and her grandmother, Doris Sicignano, of Greenville, Pa., has a date for the prom, but after trying on about a dozen dresses, all of which from the unpracticed eye looked fine, she remained undecided. Sadie is on the prom committee, plays in the concert band, sings in the concert choir, throws the javelin for the track team and is playing the role of Lily St. Regis in this year’s spring musical, “Annie.”
About an hour later, Sadie, having tried on another dozen or so dresses, was sitting on the floor still undecided.
Oh well, if she didn’t decide before Saturday’s 4 p.m. closing, she can always come back today and keep looking.