About 300 women came together in support of local breast cancer survivors at the Rockville Centre Breast Cancer Coalition’s third annual fashion show last Sunday.
The event shined a spotlight on 13 women who have battled the disease and five junior models connected with the organization. It also raised funds for the coalition’s outreach efforts and financial contributions to breast cancer research. The coalition did not specify how much money was raised when the Herald went to press on Tuesday.
“We’re positive that we raised a lot of money,” said Erin O’Sullivan, the coalition’s co-president. “The entire event was unbelievably inspirational and so much fun. It touched you in your heart because it was so personal, and you really felt bonded with everyone in the room.”
The afternoon at the Bridgeview Yacht Club, in Island Park, kicked off with appetizers and cocktails as attendees shopped and bought raffle tickets. Eight local vendors sold merchandise. “Everyone is shopping and laughing, and there’s music,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a huge celebratory event, especially for survivors.”
O’Sullivan and Co-president Peg McDonald welcomed the attendees and spoke about the coalition’s most recent accomplishments. Over the past year, it has donated $10,000 to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for breast cancer research. It has also expanded its reach beyond Rockville Centre, and now offers its services to 39 municipalities in southern Nassau County. In addition, the coalition received a grant from the Pink Aid Foundation to provide financial assistance to those undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
When a breast cancer patient or survivor contacts the organization, she is paired with a survivor who serves as her “care counselor,” offering everything from emotional support to financial aid. Through the care counselor, the group may help pay for items and services not associated with medical expenses, such as wigs, a babysitter, or a yoga class.
“That’s the heart and soul of it,” McDonald said. “And the fashion show is so important because it’s a day to celebrate the survivors. It’s really all about them. It’s a feel-good event, getting your hair done, putting on nice clothes and doing your makeup. They have a bond.”
Laura Altman, of Rockville Centre, a breast cancer survivor and a care counselor, was a model at the show. “The fashion show is always my favorite event we do each year,” she said. “The love and support of everybody who comes is so inspiring.
“It feels really good to be able to give back,” added Altman, who has been part of the group since it started in 2017. “There were women that gave me a lot of support as I was going through everything, so to be able to help other women how I was helped is extremely rewarding.”
Altman has been cancer-free for almost four years. The progress of her fellow models ranged widely, from those who were still receiving chemotherapy to others who had been in remission for years — but they all shared similar experiences, she said.
Kathy Baxley, Rockville Centre’s deputy mayor, a breast cancer survivor and a member of the coalition board of directors, was the first to walk the runway, and then took over as the show’s master of ceremonies. “It was nice having her M.C.,” Altman said. “She gave it a nice personal touch, because she was able to speak on a personal level about all of the models.”