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Rita's Closet holds annual fashion show to raise money for scholarships

Alex Medeiros walked up to the catwalk in a black tux and yellow vest. Modeling might not have been his first choice, but Medeiros wanted to help out with the fashion show that was organized in honor of his sister.

The Westminster resident was the escort of model Christiana Sasser, who was dressed in a long black, backless prom dress. The two were on the catwalk as part of the third annual Rita's Closet Fashion Show and Tea, which was held at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center on Friday night.

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Rita's Closet is a nonprofit that provides scholarships and prom dresses in honor of Medeiros' sister Rita, who died in 2012 at 16 years old as the result of a car crash. Rita and her mother had been shopping for a prom dress the day before.

Models at the fashion show wore a range of outfits, from prom dresses to bridal dresses. A young girl joined the show to show off a flower girl outfit, and two woman modeled dresses designed for mothers of a bride or groom.

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Rita's Closet, which was started by Rita and Alex's mother, Tamara Medeiros, offers prom dresses at low or no cost for girls who might not be able to afford a dress. The idea behind prom dresses came from the owner of the shop where Medeiros and Rita bought her dress.

"Well, my daughter had her prom dress in the back of the car when it all went down," Medeiros said.

The loss was big for the family and the community, said Emma Neubert, who joined the show as a first-year model.

"It was a really big hit for everyone, even if I didn't know them personally," Neubert said.

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The nonprofit also offers financial scholarships for college students from Westminster High School and for students currently attending the Career and Technology Center. Medeiros said she wants to have a scholarship for every school.

"It's for the scholarship and a good cause. It's a good opportunity," said Alex, 20, a junior at University of Maryland, College Park.

One of the scholarship recipients was Rachel Seibel, 18, who attends Shenandoah University's music conservatory in Winchester, Virginia.

Seibel received a $1,000 scholarship for her college tuition last year.

In addition to being a scholarship recipient, Seibel was one of the 24 models at the fashion show.

"It's a great event with lots of loving people," she said. "And there's no other time to model in a pretty dress [while supporting] a great cause."

Friday's show was Seibel's third time modeling as part of the Rita's Closet fashion show. This year, her favorite dress was a purple prom dress "because it's purple and I like to wear anything that's purple and sparkling," she said.

Seibel's connection to Rita's Closet goes beyond her modeling career or her scholarship. Seibel knew Rita since she was in second grade. The two of them were friends from dance classes, she said.

She said she was happy when the organization asked her to model and then asked her back the next year.

"I feel like this is such a beautiful foundation," Seibel said.

Alex Medeiros said that Rita herself would have liked the event and been a model.

Though Sasser didn't know Rita personally, she said, she's learned about her through her family. She's been dating Alex for almost three years and has modeled at the past two fashion shows.

"It was a lot of fun. It was fun to see all the faces out there. It was a good turnout," Sasser said.

Seibel, Sasser and Tamara Medeiros encouraged people to come out next year to watch the show or participate.

"It's for anyone who is bubbly and outgoing," Sasser said.

How to get to Rita's Closet:

Rita's Closet sells new and gently worn designer gowns. The foundation is located in the AMR Jewelry Boutique at 10 John Lane in Westminster.

410-857-7898

twitter.com/hmongilio

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