On Nov. 17, a group of women gathered for coffee at the home of Donna Westhues.
Some of the women knew each other well and others met for the first time, but they all had two things in common. They are breast cancer survivors and also models in the annual Strut Your Style Fashion Show and Luncheon, which supports the Community Breast Care Project.
Gatherings like this help keep their bonds of friendship, survivorship and advocacy for curing breast cancer secure. They are able to share that strength with others during the Strut Your Style Fashion Show and Luncheon, celebrating five years 10:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 10 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Jefferson City.
"The fashion show allows time to celebrate victory over this horrible disease with other survivors. Our stories are different, yet they are the same. There is a sisterhood and a love there for one another," Lori Hoelscher, a breast cancer survivor and Strut Your Style model, previously stated. "It is hope. We all send that message of hope."
Having participated in the show since its inception, Hoelscher and Westhues will join fellow breast cancer survivors to give that hope to those diagnosed with the disease and most importantly raise money and awareness for the Community Breast Care Project.
Since 2007, the Community Breast Care Project, compromised of breast cancer survivors, has helped women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in Cole, Callaway, Osage, Miller, Morgan, Moniteau and Camden counties. Supporting local individuals in need spurred the event's lead organizer Sherrie Brant to get involved four years ago.
"The Community Breast Care Project helps patients individually with a $500 donation. The patient may use this money as they wish — wigs, rides to the hospital for treatment, etc.," she said. "I am passionate about giving back to the community, and an organization is about helping local people."
The Community Breast Care Project has distributed more than $140,000 to those in need and helped nearly 50 individuals. Strut Your Style contributes to about 40 breast cancer recipients in the program annually, donating $22,000 alone from last year's event.
The community has responded to that need, and the event has grown in attendance, filling more than 300 seats last year.
Money is raised through both the luncheon and a silent auction, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Guests can bid on a variety of items, including a $1,500 travel vacation package for two (a choice of a Royal Caribbean Cruise or a Las Vegas package or New York City package that both include flight), 50-inch smart television with Wi-Fi connectivity, iPad and case, Fitbit Versa smart watch, large yard wind sculptor from Creative Iron Works, four Missouri Tiger tickets, four St. Louis Cardinals tickets, a restaurant package for six at Madison's and/or Domenico's, Bolo sterling and stone bracelet, sterling white topaz and onyx ring, beauty products, wine and appetizer packages, sterling silver and embers pendant and dangle post earrings, two packages for a weeklong stay at a lakefront condo or villa at Lake of the Ozarks, two tickets to the Carole King show including dinner and transportation to St. Louis, dessert party package for 10, catering packages, wine and appetizer package for five couples and many other items.
While browsing through the silent auction, guests can also talk with medical experts from SSM Health, JCMG, Capital Region Medical Center and other healthcare providers.
Guests will also hear from keynote speaker Beverly Vote, who will present "Joy After Trauma." A breast cancer survivor and the producer of the Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine, Vote founded the Thrivers Cruise, which has become the longest running cruise event in the world for breast cancer survivors with attendees from across the country, including Australia, Africa, Belgium, England, Ireland, Canada and Afghanistan. Brant said she is also is the author of "How We Became Breast Cancer Thrivers," co-author of "Faces of Inspiration" and contributing writer for "Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul" and "The Pink Prayer Book."
Breast cancer survivor and Strut Your Style model Pam Schneiders will also speak about the late Dana Klierthemes, who was a fellow breast cancer survivor and close friend. Kliethermes, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, faced adversity head on, raising two children, losing her mother and battling the disease all within a two-year span. However, her positive attitude, strength and courage saw her through that time. She had modeled during the Strut Your Style show for two years, with plans to return for a third before she unexpectedly died from a heart attack this summer.
"I never saw her not have a smile on her face," Schneiders previously stated. "We talked about what we had been through. She was that support person that was there for anything, anytime you needed her."
After lunch is served at 11 a.m., the fashion show will begin. The 20 models will walk the T-shaped runway, showcasing the latest winter and elegant evening attire and accessories from Mid-Missouri businesses, including Dillards, Samuel's Tuxedo, Chico's and American Shoe.
Jefferson City physicians, oncologists and surgeons refer breast cancer survivors to Community Breast Care Project, and those individuals are told about possible participation in the show. Models this year include Westhues, Hoelscher, Vicki Arcobasso, Tauncey Behringer, Nancy Gratz, Lindsay Hess, Sara Libbert, Gerrie Madsen, Amber Meyer, Liz Morrow, Roxanne Bat Sargent, Pam Schneiders, Kate Smith, Sarah Treason, Shay Wahl, Roni Flood, Bernie Fechtel and Tim Schneiders.
Five doctors and medical personnel will escort the models, including two men, down the runway. They are Dr. Caleb Steffen, Dr. Jonathan Roberts, Dr. James Lin, Dr. David Flood, Administrator of St. Mary's Hospital Phil Gustafson, and Administrator of Capitol Region Medial Center Gaspare Calvaruso.
"Patients see their doctors having a great time and supporting them. It is educational, it is a lot of fun and it is inspirational," said Brant, who noted each model's survivorship story is included in the event program. "We see these beautiful ladies (and men) from all walks of life and all ages looking fantastic and telling you, you can survive."
For Brant, that is why she started this show — to support breast cancer survivors.
"I would like more survivors participate in this show and attend this show," she said. "If I do nothing else with this show, it is to teach the public they can survive."
Reservations are $35 per person and due by Friday. Please call Jodi at 573-418-0457 or Dawn at 573-896-5500 to make a reservation or for more information. For updates about this event, visit facebook.com/StrutYourStyleFashionShow.