Just minutes before they were set to take to the runway in the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue at the Stamford Town Center, Linda Chriscoe and Elaine Morganelli were backstage reminiscing about the journey that brought them to Wednesday evening and the battles they overcame to get there.
"I participated in the fashion show last year and I'm back this year," Morganelli said. "I had just finished my last round of Chemo last year. I was bald and all puffy from the steroids. I was tearing up on my way over here, thinking about how horrible I felt and how far I've come in this past year."
Morganelli was a model for the evening. She is also a breast cancer survivor. Chriscoe is a survivor, as well. In fact, all 25 of the models participating in the Key to the Cure fundraiser kickoff fashion show were either survivors or the radiation oncologists who helped the women defeat breast cancer.
"Going through that is not easy and that's why events like tonight are so important," Chriscoe said. "You're going through an extreme range of emotions and you can sometimes feel helpless. No matter who tells you that you look alright, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Chriscoe is the chairwoman for the Stamford Hospital's Bennett Cancer Center's Paint the Town Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, a month-long initiative that throws events like Key to the Cure. She is a seven-year survivor herself and leads a group of 20 other volunteer survivors to participate in funds to raise awareness and funds.
"It's a month long campaign to get these women out these and get their screenings," said Michelle Palazzo of the Bennett Cancer Center's Hematology Oncology PC. "To have these survivors here and know what they've been through, tonight is so special because we get to say they're right here with us looking beautiful."
Lily Jackson, 13, was attending the event with her mother, who is also a survivor. She even gave up a seat near the front for another survivor navigating the crowds with a cane. Jackson said the event is important for her because of what she saw her mother go through.
"My mom had breast cancer and, while I'm here to watch the show, I want more people to know about breast cancer and the steps to fight it," Jackson said. "We need things like Key to the Cure. My mom's been a survivor for three years and no one deserves to go through what she went through."
Saks Fifth Avenue representative Paulette Pitt said they've been hosting the event for the previous four years, and they couldn't be happier.
"We're going to have the ladies displaying some fall and "resort" fashions," Pitt said. "Giving back to the community is why we're here tonight. It's the least we can do for the people we serve who keep us in business, for such a great cause. The Bennett Cancer Center is an amazing facility who provides outstanding care for their patients and we're proud to support them."
The Key to the Cure event will run Thursday, October 18, through Sunday, October 21. Two-percent of all proceeds from the weekend will be donated to Stamford Hospital's Mobile Mammography Program. One-hundred percent of the purchase price of a limited edition Key to the Cure t-shirt designed by Carolina Herrera will be donated to Saks Fifth Avenue's local charity partners.