PATHS event benefits Cancer Community Center
PORTLAND — When students from Portland Arts and Technology High School stage their annual fashion show April 16 at Deering High School, there will be more than the latest designs on display.
This year, the fashion students have chosen the South Portland-based Cancer Community Center to receive a portion of the proceeds generated by ticket sales and a silent auction. The center provides free emotional support and wellness programs to adults being treated for cancer and their families.
PATHS fashion and marketing teacher Jane Krasnow said there was little debate among her students about choosing the cancer center as this year's recipient. The students, she said, were immediately sold on the idea and didn't even solicit requests from other potential recipients.
CCC Executive Director Michele Johns said she is grateful the students chose the center, but suggested the reasons why were no reason to celebrate.
"Unfortunately, cancer is one of those things that touches many families in different ways," Johns said. "It's nice the students would take a fun event like the fashion show to raise awareness about a serious issue like cancer."
While patients are treated at local hospitals for their physical ailments, Johns said the independent center focuses on the emotional well-being of both the patients and their families. It also allows patients to drop their so-called brave faces and release their emotions without worrying about their families' reaction.
"We feel strongly that emotional support is key to healing," Johns said. "It's important for them to talk to someone who has walked in their shoes. People can ask specific questions about what to expect."
It's unlikely the center will generate a significant portion of its $450,000 annual fundraising goal from the fashion show. Last year's Eco-Chic fashion show, which drew 130 people, raised about $250 for the Maine Audubon Society, while raising awareness about how the fashion world can harm the environment.
This year's show, Collection 2009, is not tied to a theme, which allows students more artistic freedom to create designs. PATHS received a $1,000 service learning grant from L.L.Bean for the show, which will also feature the work of graphic designers, multimedia students, hip-hop artist Bruce Tracy and the PATHS Art Academy Dancers.
Students on Monday were finishing up designs that ranged from simple dresses to evening wear to candy-laced undergarments.
Chantelle Byrd, a junior at Westbrook High School, was working on a bustiere, which she was accenting with Twizzlers and jelly beans. Byrd is one of two designers in the 24-student class experimenting with candy and clothes. The other, Michelle Smith, a junior at Scarborough High School, is incorporating candy hearts into a cocktail dress.
"It's good to have things that are a little crazy," Byrd, 16, said.
Amy Cook, a sophomore at Falmouth High School, chose equally eye-catching designs, though of a non-confectionery nature. On Monday, the 16-year-old was putting the finishing touches on a bright pink gown. She is also working on a zebra-stripped dress, in addition to several other designs.
"I like the crazy stuff, because it catches your eye," Cook said.
Kanesha Gittens, a senior at Deering High School, was finishing up a maroon evening gown for the show with the help of Freeport designer Andi Sewall, one of five professionals donating their time.
Gittens, who will study fashion design at Bay State College in Boston, said designing elegant evening wear is her passion. She has also designed men's clothing and costumes for two school plays, "Anything Goes" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Krasnow said this year's fashion show will be the first time students and models will produce a show in an environment similar to that enjoyed by professional designers.
The show will take place in the newly renovated Deering High School Auditorium, which now has state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Krasnow said the facility should be able to accommodate a crowd of 330 people, about three times the size of last year's show.
Johns said the cancer center is grateful for more than the amount of money the school can raise.
"We very much appreciate the support of the community," she said, "especially from the young people."
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.