Cure By Design Fashion Show Celebrates Survivors, Offers Hope

The night ended with fashion designer Alex Garfield raising his arms, champagne flute in hand, and making a toast: “To hope!” But the Cure by Design event that took place September 24, 2011 at the Hilton Hotel in Short Pump was more than an event designed to raise funds to cure cancer.

The night ended with fashion designer Alex Garfield raising his arms, champagne flute in hand, and making a toast: “To hope!”  But the Cure by Design event that took place September 24, 2011 at the Hilton Hotel in Short Pump was more than an event designed to raise funds to cure cancer.

It was a night that celebrated survival, promoted wellness, brought together a community for a common cause, and, just as Alex proclaimed, gave hope to many.

The sixth annual Cure by Design was an event designed to bring together local fashion, designers, and retailers with larger sponsors to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. This year, the event featured fifty cancer survivors who celebrated their new found birthdays with a walk down the runway in fashions from local favorites such as Pink, Eurotrash, Franco’s, The French Boutique, Evelyn’s Designs, and many more.

First Lady Maureen McDonnell opened the event with the story of her own personal brush with cancer at the young age of seventeen. While her form of cancer turned out to be benign, she discovered that she did have a predisposition to breast cancer. This prompted immediate lifestyle changes and has led her proactive approach of championing cancer prevention for the past thirty years.

Preventative maintenance is vitally important, she noted, as some forms of cancer can be prevented or even reversed with proper care.

The First Lady remarked, “We do it for our cars, why not ourselves?”  As her opening speech came to a close, it was time for her own runway walk to showcase her dress designed by Evelyn Bagala, a Richmond based designer. Joining her on stage was surprise guest, but no surprise to those in the know among the fashion scene, top male model Brad Kroenig. Kroenig has modeled for the likes of Fendi, Guess, and Chanel and lent his runway prowess to the night’s event by escorting the First Lady for her own spin down the catwalk.

With the speeches completed, it was time for the main event–the fashion show. The models were divided into four separate “scenes” and they strutted their stuff down the runway to music and detailed descriptions of their outfits. Interspersed between the fashion “scenes,” was a live auction, hosted by designer Alex Garfield.

The highlight of this auction was the gentleman who agreed to raise the bid on a painting with the sole condition that it be given to Eleanor Brooks, a precious three year girl who is a six month survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia who walked the runway in pink galoshes, a flowered outfit, and umbrella bigger than herself. The crowd burst into applause and again, the show went on.

The show itself was much more than a fashion event. Even though the clothes were lovely, the fashions inspiring, and the celebrities stunning, what truly stole the show were the stories of Ginny, Vincent and Kevin, Gracie, Madison, and Eleanor, Joanne, and the other 43 survivors.

Hours prior to the show beginning, the models had gathered at the Hilton where they were treated to lunch, hand massages and other perks, and a chance to connect with each other. It was there that I was privileged to meet Ginny Little from Chesterfield. She was gracious enough to freely discuss her journey with cancer.

I learned that she was diagnosed via a routine mammogram on February 22, 2010, a date forever etched in her mind.  She was called back for a second mammogram where the doctor performed an ultra sound and an immediate biopsy on tissue that looked odd. What started out as a small procedure eventually turned into a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Despite it all, she finds strength in her family and friends and now freely gives back to her community.

She volunteers for VCU’s Massey Cancer Society as an “Ambassador,” providing comfort and hope to those who are in similar places that she was almost a year ago. Her last chemo treatment is scheduled for October 4, 2011, another date that will be etched in her mind, but this time with far less trepidation. After that she has celebratory plans to travel, visit family, and be ever thankful for her next birthday.

Backstage waiting for the show to begin, Vincent Tickle, a middle school boy, rattled off the medical term for his cancer and was quickly rebuffed by Kevin, an 8th grader, chiding him to “just tell her the short name.” Vincent is a 3 year old thyroid cancer survivor while Kevin is a six year old leukemia survivor. They were articulate and well spoken. On the runway they posed like no other. You never would have known they had experienced something as life changing as cancer.

Madison, Gracie, and Eleanor, mentioned earlier, share similar stories. The two older girls, 8 and 9 respectively, debuted red and yellow sequined Uggs and were so young and sweet, it was difficult to picture them as suffering from cancer, but easy to see them as survivors. Joanne, a seventeen month breast cancer survivor, declared the event a great experience, one that “soothes the soul.” And indeed it was.

If I learned anything from the 50 brave models, the support of guests like Ashley Smith (Miss United States), Alex Garfield, and the Governor and First Lady of Virginia, the thousands of hours put into planning, and the stories of so many, especially Ginny Little, it would be the following:

1. Preventative care is a must! Always schedule, and keep, your annual appointments.

2. Don’t allow a diagnosis to control your life. Make sure to seek a second opinion – don’t panic.

3. Your attitude will determine the course of your life. Always strive to maintain a positive attitude, live one day at a time if need be, but don’t dwell on the negative.

One other thing I took away from the event?  It is not so much the money that was raised or the clothes that were featured, but it was the celebration of hope, the creation of an event that is soothing to the soul, and the gathering of the community that made this event what it was–a smashing, fashionable, success.

Guest contributor Sydney Page covers local fashion trends, events and more on her blog, Chic Stripes.

  • error

    Report an error

This article has been closed to further comments.