Chris Gildea strutted her stuff on the catwalk Thursday night at Seven Mountains Wine Cellars for the second annual Little Black Dress Goes Pink Ladies Night Out event to fund raise for Pennsylvania Pink Zone.
Fellow breast cancer survivor Pat Kepple, a native of Nashville, Tenn., and now a resident of Huntingdon, worked the crowd of about 160 with some hip action and a smile as she showed off attire donated by n’V Boutique, of Boalsburg.
“We come out here very much out of our comfort zone and have a ball,” Gildea said. “The first person usually takes to the fashion show not knowing what to expect, then you really warm up and get into it. It’s all about having fun. That’s what tonight is.”
Thursday night’s event, sponsored by Pennsylvania Pink Zone and Mount Nittany Health celebrated breast cancer survivors, and raised money and awareness for the organization.
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Pennsylvania Pink Zone is an organization that was established in 2006 that promotes breast cancer awareness and empowers survivors through yearlong fundraising activities. The organization is partnered with the Penn State Lady Lions in the fight against breast cancer.
Players received a standing ovation as they were introduced during the fashion show, which followed a meet-and-greet, and wine tasting hour.
“It’s just great to be a part of such an empowering event like this, and give back to the community and show our support,” said freshman Kaliyah Mitchell. “I’m lucky to start here as a freshman and looking forward to working the next four years with Pink Zone.”
By the second round of the fashion show at the outdoor venue, Lory Fullington, owner of Fullington Trailways, showed off an American-themed outfit.
Fundraising totals for Pennsylvania Pink Zone have reached $825,318 since its inception, said Executive Director Miriam Powell. The goal for Thursday’s event was to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 to put toward the $300,000 annual goal, Powell added.
Last year, the fashion show event raised about $9,000.
“It was such a success last year that we knew we had to bring it back,” Powell said. “It was actually kind of overwhelming with the amount of positive support we got.”
The idea was sparked last year as a way to continue fundraising events yearlong and help breast cancer survivors be a part of the action, Powell said.
“It was just an idea that I had least year. We knew we wanted to do fundraising throughout the year and part of our mission is to empower survivors,” Powell said. “It gives them a chance to shine.”
Powell said Pink Zone helps fund six organizations: Mount Nittany Medical Center as the primary beneficiary, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital.
As a veteran model at the Little Black Dress Goes Pink Ladies Night Out event, Gildea said her job was to help the newbies.
“I guess you can say I’m a veteran now,” Gildea said with a laugh. “We’re encouraging everyone to have fun with it. We’re all out of character like rookies, but each girl feels more empowered after. None of us actually know what we’re doing, but we’re enjoying the night.”
Gildea, of Alexandria, celebrated her 10th year being breast cancer free this summer and said when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46, it was a life changing experience.
“You hear you have cancer and it’s like taking a hammer to the head. It was six months of intense treatment, but you come out with this newfound love of life after all the chemo, radiation and surgery,” said Gildea, a mother of four. “When you have a support system and something to fight for like I had with my family, it’s all worth it in the end.”
Men acted as butlers throughout the night to cater to the women as they served hors d’oeuvres, and escorted the women to and from the outdoors with pink umbrellas.
“Any time you have the opportunity to cater to beautiful women, you have to take advantage of it,” said Brian Allen. “I couldn’t pass up a great chance to help give back to a great cause.”
Centre Daily Times Executive Editor Chip Minemyer was among the butlers, as well.
Other events included desserts after the fashion show, survivor story telling, a basket raffle and music by State College saxophonist Benjamin Kim.
“This doesn’t have to be a death sentence. We fight together in finding a cure for this. We’re not there yet, but it’s a step-at-a-time process. We raise this money and little by little we’re seeing progress like treatment management and early cancer detection,” Gildea said. “If you look at the survivors, you see it’s all worth it and worth the fight.”
Pennsylvania Pink Zone’s next major fundraiser will be the eighth annual Pink Zone game between the Lady Lions and Wisconsin on Feb. 16.