Away from hospital, models at Children’s Blood & Cancer Center fashion show embrace the spotlight Sunday

Teenagers make their way out of limo into a medieval theme prom held at the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas on Saturday, June 13, 2015. Every year, the Children's Blood & Cancer Center at Dell Children's Medical Center holds a prom for their teens that might not be able to make it to their own prom. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The Fashion Show grew out of the prom that the Children’s Blood & Cancer Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center holds every year. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015)

Confidence. Power. Beauty. Joy.

That’s what the Third Annual Children’s Blood & Cancer Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas Fashion Show is all about.

On Sunday, we’ll be there to write about why this show, which puts teens with cancer or blood disorders in fashions from Austin boutiques, helps improve their lives.

The event

When: Doors open at 4:30. Fashion show begins at 5:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fair Market 1100 E. Fifth St.

Tickets: $20 adults, $10 kids

Information and tickets: www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-dell-childrens-cbcc-fashion-show-tickets-30766944760

The show also will feature a concert from the Nightowls, food trucks, a beauty truck, photo booth, family activities, live auction and more. It all benefits the Hungry Bunch, social group for teens at the center, which began in 1997.

Cynthia Fitchpatrick, the psychosocial coordinator for the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center, started the Hungry Bunch after it became apparent that the hospital at the time had a family playroom for younger kids but nothing for the older kids. She started the group as one that would meet in the hospital, but after three meetings, the teens begged to meet outside the hospital.

They labeled themselves the Hungry Bunch after an early trip to a burger stand. The kids were asked to give a name for their order, and one of them told the restaurant to just call them “the hungry bunch.” Cancer treatments do all kinds of weird things to kids’ appetites, sometimes making them very hungry.

Now they meet once a month for activities outside of the hospital such as going to iFly or the Round Rock Express. They always bring two nurses and two child life specialists with them. Their parents aren’t invited. It gives the kids a break from them and it gives their parents time away from their child’s illness.

Fitchpatrick says the Hungry Bunch creates a peer group, which is hard for kids going through treatments to have. They often miss months of school and aren’t around their friends. “That’s not normal for a child or teenager,” Fitchpatrick says.

“A lot of childhood cancers are curable, but they are life changing,” she says. “We want to be sure this illness and what they are going through doesn’t have negative impact on them. We want them to grow through it and to develop coping skills. We want to find new things to bring them joy.”

“It’s an opportunity to feel confident,” says Cami Eagle, 16, who has blood disorder congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type 1, which causes too much iron in her blood. She’s walked the fashion show for two years. “People are clapping for us. You grow up in a hospital gown. You get to feel confident in something you picked out.”

At the show, Fitchpatrick says, she’ll see models walk the runway and then go back stage to rest between runway turns, but when they are on the stage, “they are so happy,” she says. “That’s one of the biggest things to see for the parents and for us as staff.”

The joy continues beyond the show. She’ll see the models a week later in the clinic for treatment and they are still happy.

The fashion show grew out of another Hungry Bunch event, the annual prom. Austin stylist Aysa Province was volunteering with the center at the prom and saw how much that event did for the kids. “They light up,” she says. She knew she could put together her connections with local boutiques, hair and makeup stylists and create a fashion show for the kids. “I thought I could pair my two passions — fashions and these kids — to create another event where they could be pampered and be celebrated.”

This year 27 kids are scheduled to walk the runway. They all have gotten to pick their outfits based on their style.

“The best part is seeing these kids happy,” Province says. “They go through so so much, the struggles they have to go through with their health and financially. You get to see them this day be pampered and loved. They get swag bags to take home full of goodies. They get people cheering them on. They’re the celebrities.”

Watch a video from last year’s event: