Theft at charity fashion show shocks organizers

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Seniors Gabby Inder and Jennifer Golden saw five months’ worth of effort significantly diminished as about 80 percent of their charitable profits disappeared.  On Dec. 12, the night of their DECA project fashion show, two dresses went missing, valued together at $700.
The holiday themed fashion show, featuring thousands of dollars worth of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, was a charity event committed to donating all proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), the DECA sponsored organization which serves to grant research funds in an attempt to find a cure for muscular dystrophy. Clothing was donated from 12 local independently owned boutiques and CHS students and elementary aged girls modeled in the show.
“To whoever stole the dresses, that was an extremely selfish act and they should be ashamed of themselves because all the profits went towards MDA,” Golden said. “They stole from a worthy cause and if they wanted the dresses so bad they should have gone to the store and bought them themselves.”
Inder and Golden’s project falls under the “learn and earn” category in DECA competition. This type of project is intended to teach DECA members to “make a profit while learning about marketing.” Last year, Inder and Golden organized a fashion show under the community service category for DECA competition, but found that competing against students who raised $50,000 challenging and thus found the learn and earn contest to be a better fit.
DECA sponsor Marci Boland directed Golden and Inder in the planning of the show, meeting weekly for 45 minutes before school to help “keep them on track.”
“The girls were like professionals putting on an event,” Boland said. “I was extremely impressed with their efforts. That is what makes it so horrible that one or two people ruined this for everyone.”
The district competition is Feb. 10 and Boland expects the robbery to affect the project’s results in competition.
“Definitely we are put at a disadvantage,” Boland said. “This project is about a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Association. We now have $700 less to donate to this cause.”
The event raised $860 in admission fees, but after paying for the missing dresses, $160 will be donated to MDA as a result of the fashion show.
“I will never allow my DECA students to put on another fashion show,” Boland said.
Although not part of it wasn’t part of the girls’ learn and earn project, through DECA-sponsored Powderpuff football and the Penny Wars, an additional $1,000 will be donated to MDA.
“The money for those two events are going to MDA,” Golden said. “We didn’t spend that much money on ads and decorations so the majority of the money should have gone to the organization.”
Before borrowing the clothing, Inder and Golden signed contracts with the boutiques. In exchange for lending the outfits, the two were responsible for any damages to the clothing.
“The boutiques were also extremely upset when we had to tell them that dresses were stolen,” Boland said. “We had to pay for the dresses, but now these boutiques think differently about Clayton students just because of the actions of one or two students.”
A $400 dress from Alixandra and a $300 dress from Laurie Solet went missing on the night of the show. A theft of property or services over $500 is considered a felony. Thus, the thief would be charged with felony stealing if identified.

Stolen Dress

Ruthie Polinsky (center), a model at the DECA fashion show and a CHS student, wore the dress that was later stolen. The dress theft is still under investigation.

“My initial reaction was that it was so crazy in that room that the dresses must have accidently slipped into someone’s bag,” Boland said. “Not a big deal; the dresses will be returned.”
Upon discovering that two dresses were missing while organizing apparel for return, Inder and Golden sent a Facebook message informing the CHS models of the situation.
The message warned the girls that the video tape recorded by the school’s surveillance cameras would be viewed.  Inder and Golden promised to press charges against anyone found guilty, but promised to take no further action if “the clothes show up on the doorstep of 80 Lake Forest undamaged.”
While the two dresses failed to show up, CHS School Resource Officer John Zlatic aided in reviewing the tape.
“Identification of suspects depends upon the physical evidence available, interviews, the investigators experience and sometimes pure luck,” Zladic said. “Evidence does exist for this crime and detectives are still reviewing the video surveillance of the show.”
Golden observes that the chaotic environment backstage provided for opportunities to steal the dresses.
“In the room the girls were changing in there wasn’t a camera but there were cameras surrounding the rooms,” Golden said. “It was pretty hectic backstage. There were 83 models and a lot of people had access to the room. People were going in and out and the door was unlocked.”
It is likely that the thief was one of the CHS models.
“Unfortunately, it is likely that the suspect is a member of our CHS community,” Zladic said. “The individual stole from a charity and may be responsible for the cancellation of future such shows. I would hope that this individual would do the right thing and correct what they have done.”
Last year a similar incident during the school-sponsored fashion show resulted in missing shoes.
“But after watching the security tapes which were very helpful and then talking to Mrs. Williams about shoes that were stolen at her fashion show, we are pretty confident that this is the same person,” Boland said.
The models who wore the stolen dresses described exactly where the dresses should have been, but only the jewelry was left on the hangers.
“We still want to find who did this,” Golden said. “In the video tapes there is some suspicious activity, but we still don’t have enough evidence to point out certain people.”

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