Story and photos by Stephanie Chacharon
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
As guests streamed through the doors of Showbox SODO last night, a school bus full of cheering, waving models — all breast-cancer survivors — pulled up to the venue. STYLE ’11, the 9th annual fashion -how benefit for Northwest Hope & Healing, had just begun.
Inside, the SoDo space was elegantly decorated, dimly lit and accented with pink. Guests greeted friends while waiting in line for a drink. The catwalk was illuminated with bold pink lighting, framed by candlelit VIP tables. The screen behind the runway flashed candid images of smiling women and past fashion show shots intermixed with sponsors’ logos. The women’s larger-than-life faces were proof that bald is beautiful, just as beautiful as a stage filled with more than three dozen breast cancer survivors.
The annual benefit is the brainchild of Carmilia’s Linda Sabee (shown above with NWHH executive director Shari Sewell) and Ola Salon & Spa. Sabee told us the original intent was just to have some fun, and then it quickly evolved into a fundraiser for Northwest Hope & Healing. For the first few years the event was held at Ola, but once it began to grow they moved the event to Showbox SODO. The event is a chance to honor and celebrate breast cancer survivors and fashion in the Seattle area.
(Story continues, with more photos, ahead)
Northwest Hope & Healing is a non-profit organization that helps provide support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and their families. Proceeds from the event benefit the organization’s Patient Assistance Fund, which helps patients meet basic needs like food, child care, and rent.
As guests mingled, sipped sparkling wine, and purchased raffle tickets during the cocktail hour, we talked with Tracy Dart (above) backstage. Tracy, a West Seattle resident and two-time breast cancer survivor, received a Healing Basket from Northwest Hope & Healing when she was initially diagnosed. She first attended the show last year when a friend was modeling, and this year she returned in a different capacity — making her runway debut as a model herself.
More than the fashion, Tracy focused on the fundraising aspect of the evening. “I’m always so impressed with people’s generosity, especially during tough economic times,” she told us. “I’m excited to be on the stage when they do the ask.”
Before the show began, we also got a chance to speak with another West Seattlite: Northwest Hope & Healing founder and breast cancer survivor Christine Smith.
Christine (pictured with husband Tim) started the organization after seeing that not all patients had the benefit of a network of family and friends to rely on like she did. She told us that what started as a small outpouring of support turned into an amazing organization, powered by a dedicated staff and board, committed volunteers, and a phenomenal executive director.
“We’re about hope. People heal, and then they come back and want to know how they can help.” she said. “Tonight is a celebration. I’m looking forward to the fact that it’s all survivors on the stage this year.”
The fashion show was emceed by Patrick Murphy, who — flanked by a stage-full of survivors sporting pink tank tops—spoke of the organization’s mission to help cancer patients find normalcy when life is anything but normal. Patrick was followed by guest speaker Jake Haunty.
Jake offered the perspective of the spouse of a cancer patient, sharing the story of his wife Nancy’s three-time victory over cancer. He emphasized that Northwest Hope & Healing is a different kind of organization, one that provides “help that is real; help that is practical; help that is now.”
Before the fashion show began, Patrick led the audience in a fund-a-need fundraiser. Guests raised their paddles high for donation amounts ranging from $50 to $5,000.
Then it was time for the main event: fashion! The models walked, danced, and sashayed down the runway decked out in ensembles from local shops, including West Seattle’s Carmilia’s, Sweetie, Coastal, and West Seattle Runner (WSB sponsor). The women proudly strutted their stuff to the tune of blaring pop music. Not to be outdone, the male models wooed the ladies in attendance with high-fives, suggestively silly poses, and guy theatrics.
West Seattle businesses were well-represented at the event, not only in the form of clothing and accessories, but much-needed sponsorship as well. Circa, Spring Hill, CAPERS, Ola, Avalon, Phoenecia, Kiwanis Club of West Seattle, and West Seattle Body Works were among the sponsors.
In addition, Ola stylists and contract make-up artists (above) donated their services — giving the survivors the finishing touches for the runway.
“It’s the most important event that we do,” said Ola manager Christina Chew. “It’s the thing that reminds us that what we do is so much greater than it sometimes seems.”
Northwest Hope and Healing also presents the Alki Beach 5K each year – this year’s date is already set, Sunday, August 28.