Macy's treats Tampa teens chosen to attend inauguration

Devin Oliver, 16, checks the length on the sleeves of a coat he’s trying on. Oliver is one of six South Tampa teens selected to go to next week’s inauguration by the Boys and Girls Club.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Devin Oliver, 16, checks the length on the sleeves of a coat he’s trying on. Oliver is one of six South Tampa teens selected to go to next week’s inauguration by the Boys and Girls Club.

TAMPA — Cody Crawford pulled on the DKNY suit jacket the personal shopper from Macy's handed him Thursday afternoon, and when his eyes fell on the $400 price tag, they nearly shot out of his head.

Just an hour earlier, the Robinson High School student was one of six South Tampa teens to receive a $500 gift certificate and new suitcase from the department store in WestShore Plaza in front of a horde of reporters.

The 16-year-old and the five others are members of Jim Walter Interbay Boys and Girls Club, and have been chosen to go to the presidential inauguration in Washington next week.

"I guess $500 is a lot of money," said Crawford, laughing. "But then again, it may not be."

The Stafford Foundation, a Christian charity founded in 2002, booked the entire J.W. Marriott Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and donated accommodations for 300 people to several organizations just before Christmas. The Boys and Girls Club received 50 of those slots and gave seven to the Interbay branch on Christmas Eve.

Many of the teens didn't have proper business attire or winter clothes for the trip, so Macy's stepped in.

"They're going to be a part of a historic day and they are such good kids with all that they do for their community and the Boys and Girls Club, so we felt we needed to recognize them," said a teary-eyed Melissa Goff, a spokeswoman for Macy's.

The chain made the more than $6,000 donation after being contacted by Gwen Bird, godmother of another of the Washington-bound teens, Robinson High's Amari Bennett.

"She is my best friend and confidant, and she made this happen through the power of networking," said Cornelia Wright, Amari's mother.

To help the kids make the right choices, Macy's assigned personal shoppers like Susan Finch to discuss the finer points of fit and good shirt-tie combinations.

"My services are complimentary today," Finch told Crawford, Tyler Placeres and Devin Oliver. "We're going to get everything you need, starting with blazers."

The three 16-year-olds from Robinson High played musical jackets until everyone found their fit, then they moved to shirts.

But even with help, shopping was difficult for the teens, with news cameras following their every move in the store.

"I always wanted to be famous when I was a kid," said Jennifer Tran, 16, of Plant High. "Now I know what it feels like. I understand what the celebrities are saying now."

Kristina Sutor, the last to be added to the trip, tried on a blue satin, halter-neck, empire-waist gown for the Children's and Youth Inaugural balls, which all 50 of the Boys and Girls Club representatives will attend.

"I really love it," the beaming 15-year-old said while holding it out for her mother to inspect.

All the parents in attendance thanked the Macy's representatives at every opportunity.

"It's quite touching to think they would do something like this," said Rob Placeres, 48, Tyler's dad. "With all the kids do, if they can be recognized for it that's good."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.

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Want to help?

If you would like to donate for the teens' food and other expenses, call the Boys & Girls Club at (813) 875-5771.

Macy's treats Tampa teens chosen to attend inauguration 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:26pm]

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