By Joe Beck
FRONT ROYAL - Randy Starita was a happy man stepping out in style at the Skyline High School prom Friday night.
He was going in a tuxedo he once thought would be too expensive, wearing new shoes that not long ago would have been beyond his reach. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a new Randy Starita, ruddy faced and smiling, the product of a fresh haircut and shave he received hours before.
"It's handsome on me, man," Starita said of the tuxedo.
The transformation came about thanks to the many friends he has acquired in the Front Royal Police Department in the last few months. Police and civilians banded together to collect cash and in-kind contributions that turned prom night from a fantasy into a reality for the Skyline student.
Starita, 18, is a special needs student who comes from a household without the kind of money it takes to outfit a teenager for a prom. For the last several months, he has been dropping by the police department to chat with officers and civilians in the station. As time went by, he befriended many of those he met.
He even got to go on a ride-along patrol with Officer Zachary King. King was planning to drive Starita to the prom in his personal car and pick him up at the end of evening.
Shelley Mauck, an evidence/records specialist who helped organize the effort, said Starita is a good kid. "He's enthusiastic. He's kind. He's a nice boy, and the guys really took to him."
Members of the police force gathered around Starita at the station Friday as he beamed with satisfaction at his makeover.
"Everybody here is familiar with Randy," King said Friday. "We help him out when we can. He helps us out when he can. He's just a good guy to have around."
Officers and civilians enlisted family members and business acquaintances to help with Starita's prom night.
"He just said he wanted to go to the prom, so we made the arrangements," King said.
Schultz Theatre in New Market contributed the tuxedo. The boutonniere came from NW Designs in Woodstock. Vickie Waller, a hairstylist and the wife of officer Landin Waller, pitched in with a haircut and shave. Skyline High School donated a free prom ticket. Becky Birch, a dispatcher, donated the new shoes. Officer Jennifer Lowery was one of the main organizers.
Chief Norman Shiflett was among those congratulating Starita on his new look as he got ready to leave the station.
"Look at that haircut, you got," Shiflett told him. "You styling, man."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org