Alison Hornung, 18, of North Kingstown, R.I., a senior at North Kingstown High School, organized a fashion runway show and other fundraisers over a six-week period that yielded $43,000 to help find a cure for blood cancers after a close friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Alison was devastated as she watched her friend Grace struggle with her disease. “During the treatment, she lost her eyesight, use of her legs, and the ability to be a child,” said Alison. When Grace nominated her to participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year fundraising competition, “there was no doubt in my mind that it was something I wanted to do,” said Alison.
Alison knew she wanted her main fundraising event to be a fashion runway show. She contacted two designers from the TV program Project Runway as well as two local clothing designers, all of whom committed to the event. She asked local businesses for raffle and silent auction items, found a free venue and a caterer, and secured donated lighting, music, a photo booth, and hair and makeup services. The day of the event, Grace, who is now cancer-free, and 14 other cancer patients walked the runway. “Seeing Grace powerfully, confidently, and gracefully strut down the runway was the best feeling I have ever felt,” said Alison. The event raised $12,000, but Alison wanted to donate more, so she planned other fundraisers including fitness events and a battle of the bands. While she ended up a little short of her $50,000 goal, she won the competition and says she will continue raising money to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.