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Leave the Chocolate Out of Rover’s Celebrations

Bell Oaks Fashion Show A Success

By: Anne Forline
Gloucester City News


Photo Courtesy of Gina Catrambone and Carol Holt. Charitable Students - Eighth Grade students, under the direction of teachers Carol Holt and Gina Catrambone, are pictured at the Fourth Annual Bell Oaks Fashion Show, which was dedicated in memory of Officer "Bobby" Swanson. By participating in the Fashion show, students are taught life skills and raise an awareness for charity.


The annual Bell Oaks Fashion Show is a popular, highly anticipated event at the middle school for both students and staff alike. It is the brainchild of physical education teacher, Carol Holt, who came up with the idea after she observed that students did not know basic etiquette. 

Four years ago, Holt sought to host an event that would teach students necessary life skills, such as setting a table.

That idea has blossomed into the major production that it is today: a combined fashion show and three-course sit down dinner prepared and served by eighth grade students. The proceeds of the ticket sales are donated to charity.

Planning and preparations began in January.  Students who are mentors and peer mediators of the eighth grade class are eligible to participate in the fashion show. This year, 54 students were involved.

Not everyone is a model.  However, because the fashion show is all about raising self-esteem and volunteering for a good cause, there are many ways a student can help with the event, said teacher Gina Catrambone, who helped with other volunteers that included fellow teachers, hair dressers and former students.

“We encourage all of the students to step outside their comfort zone and really have fun with this fashion show. In addition to learning life skills, all students who participate play a part in the set-up, break-down, walking or being an emcee or cooking,” she said.

This year, an estimated 250 people attended the show and enjoyed a three course-meal. The students prepared a first course of soup and salad, which was donated by Los Amigos. They served a second course of ziti, baked chicken and chicken divan with roasted carrots and potatoes and they rounded out the third course with an assorted dessert tray.

Catrambone said that because so many students helped out, “It only took us about two weeks to get all of the cooking and preparation done.”

The proceeds from the $15 admission are donated to many of the different charities that are represented at the fashion show. Among them are the Dooley House, Autism Speaks, Camden County Women's Shelter, Special Olympics-NJ, South Jersey Breast Cancer Coalition, Leukemia Lymphoma Society, JDRF and the Animal Orphanage.

Catrambone stated that students pick different themes to represent during the fashion show walks and they create themed goodie bags to represent the charities.

Prior to the fashion show, the students learned about various charities by attending presentations hosted by different speakers.  “Because of the fashion show, they are raising awareness of all of the different charities they represent and raising money for a good cause through the ticket sales,” Catrambone said.

As for the students who walk the runway in the fashion show, they model clothes that represent various themes. To keep the costs minimal, students dress up (or borrow) clothes that had been worn to other events, such as dances.

Students Eric Sweeney and Dan Moody were excited to be a part of this year’s show.

Photo by Sharon Sweeney - Eric Sweeney (left) and Dan Moody (right) make the audience laugh with their interpretation of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum


For Eric, he said just being a part of the show was a great learning experience.

“We were always learning from the beginning to the end. There was never a time when we were not learning. We all put our hearts into it.”

As for Dan, participating in this annual event was particularly memorable. Not only did Dan grace the runway five times as a model, he also helped out with the preparation work, cooking and serving.

He noted, “This was probably the most fun night I had at Bell Oaks. Everybody was laughing when we walked out. It was great to see everyone’s expressions when we came out there.”

To remember and honor the memory of their former DARE officer, the students dedicated this year’s Fashion Show in memory of Sergeant “Bobby” Swanson.


Photo Courtesy of Gina Catrambone and Carol Holt - Fashionable Models - Students representing the "Glee" themed Special Olympics Team are: Victoria Caldas, Dom Virelli, Brianna Hoskins, Sarah Vohringer, Lindsay Sherwood, Lorenzo Ibarra and Chris Antonio.