A fashion show takes on a whole different meaning when the kids coming down the runway are fighting or surviving cancer.

“I did a lot of performing arts growing up, but this is different,” Ahwatukee resident Kara Houser said. “When the audience cheers it’s not that they are clapping because they enjoyed my performance, but they are clapping for me because I’m a survivor. I’m here on this ground, living. It’s the greatest thing. I always cry happy tears.”

Houser is one of more than 40 kids that take part in the Cancer Children’s Network’s (CCN) Annual Fashion Show. The show is a fundraiser for the nonprofit group, which is dedicated to helping families with kids with cancer.

Houser’s family found out about the group years ago when she had been diagnosed with cancer at only 8 months old. When she was in seventh grade Houser was off treatment, but her family still had questions as she was getting older. They found out about CCN’s bi-annual Cancer Survivorship Conference and decided to go. Once they saw all the programs the network runs they decided to join the fashion show and have been participating ever since.

“They have unbelievable volunteers who are very talented and very resourceful, and just do it out of the kindness of their hearts,” said Nancy Houser, Kara’s mom. “Somehow, it all comes together and we are able to help a lot of kids and a lot of families.”

The fashion show, put on annually at the Arizona Biltmore, usually has around 700 guests. Dillard’s provides clothes for the kids to model as they go down the runway, and there are about 125 silent auction items for sale as well. The show helps fulfill part of CCN’s mission by spotlighting survivors and their siblings in a positive way that boosts morale when it is most needed. It also raises money that goes toward other programs CCN organizes. The event has grown considerably since its first one in 2004.

“I was actually a little late on the bandwagon getting involved with the group,” said Andrea White-Collins, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident who is a board member for CCN and a pediatric nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “I just sort of showed up for the show the first year and, obviously, I was hooked. It was amazing to see what these friends of mine, a nurse and a banker and the talented group they had collected around them, had done. Who would think that they could do this and do it so well? That was amazing from a personal standpoint. From a professional standpoint, to see some of my current and previous patients walk down that runway, it was mind boggling. It was so cool. To see the community and family and friends come and participate, it was awesome. It really proved the worth of the organization.”

This year, the show will take place on Sunday, March 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register or donate, visit childrenscancernetwork.org or call (602) 717-9139.

Space for the fashion show is limited, but CCN is always looking for more volunteers for other programs and events. A complete list of programs can be found on their website.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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