It’s probably not the first thing someone would grab out of a closet. But as bad as a fashion choice a black vest with colorful bows may be, a group of Starpoint Middle School teachers are still using it for a good cause.

A group of about 15 teachers and administrators are taking turns wearing the vest this week in an effort to raise money for charity. Participants in “Who Can Wear the Vest the Best” donate $5 to wear the vest, and the money collected goes toward breast cancer research.

But that’s not all, as next week students will vote on which teacher they think looks the best with the vest. Students will vote by placing loose change in a container next to a picture of a particular teacher or administrator. At the end of next week, the change will be added up and the container with the most money wins. All of the change collected will go to the winner’s charity of choice.

It started when art teacher Kelly Tomasello’s grandmother, Sharon Nassoiy-Koehler, bought her the vest from a senior citizens closet sale in Grand Island.

“She told me, ‘Kelly I have this beautiful vest,’ and I just had to laugh,” Tomasello said.

Tomasello brought the vest to school and showed it off to colleagues. A student actually wore the vest during the school’s morning announcements video. Then teacher Jan Ferington decided to take a chance with the vest and wore it for a whole school day. She received a number of compliments on her attire.

“It was something I thought I could do,” Ferington said. “I thought I could wear that — I’d make it work.”

The vest contest grew from there, as teacher after teacher starting wearing the vest. Eventually middle school Principal James Bryer and Assistant Principal James Peiffer took their turn wearing the garment. Soon the idea to use the vest to raise money for breast cancer research was born, as Tomasello’s grandmother is breast cancer survivor. Then the students, themselves, wanted to get involved.

“The kids wanted to wear it,” Tomasello said. “They laughed hysterically when they would see us in the vest.”

Teachers invented all kind of ways to wear the vest. Tomasello wore a belt with it, while teacher Diane O’Brien wore a Kentucky Derby style hat. But it was teacher Linda Harrington who went all out, including using black nail polish and fake tattoos.

Tomasello said she hopes the “vest contest” is something that’ll continue in the future. There are plans to have another contest in November and the new vest has been chosen. Ferington said it is a white and gray, kind of a furry looking vest.

And for those wondering, Tomasello did tell her grandmother the truth about her feelings about the vest.

“She said, ‘Oh, I could tell,’” Tomasello said. “But it’s being used for a good cause.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.

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