It was a heart-warming scene at River Oaks Country Club last week when smartly dressed pediatric cancer survivors, from toddlers to teens, and philanthropic Houstonians—deemed patient champions and community champions, respectively—walked down a runway, hand-in-hand, to thunderous applause.
The occasion was Texas Children's Cancer Center's 11th annual Celebration of Champions Fashion Show and Luncheon, chaired this year by Sidney Faust, Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert, and Scott Basinger. More than 375 guests gathered for the show that featured 13 pediatric cancer survivors from Texas Children's paired with 25 notable Houstonians engaged in the fight to end childhood cancer, all dressed in this season's looks from Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard's.
In true model form, children had their hair and makeup done before the show, and their pride was on full display as they strutted down the catwalk, some striking a pose or—in one case—busting a move (specifically, the so-called Backpack Kid's signature dance, The Floss) to a raucous reaction. One patient-turned-model, Rylie York, now a freshman studying journalism at Baylor, also gave the invocation.
It was a celebratory (and celebrity) moment for the kids who have already endured so much in their short lives, as event emcee, FOX 26 Morning News co-anchor Melissa Wilson, emphasized. Wilson took her own turn on the runway years ago as a former community champion; in tragic irony, her own son was diagnosed with pediatric cancer just before that event.
This year's show raised more than $390,000 for the hospital's unique Long-Term Survivor Program, which monitors pediatric patients into adulthood for delayed side effects and complications caused by previous cancer therapies. Guests also donated to help patient families and caregivers with one simple expense that, Wilson attested, can quickly accumulate throughout the long, arduous course of treatment: hospital parking.
To date, the Celebration of Champions shows have raised more than $3 million for Texas Children's.