Glitz, glamour, nerves, lace and excitement all featured prominently at A Touch of Graces annual charity fashion show Sunday, which benefits the local Childrens Miracle Network affiliate to help families with medical and travel bills.
But so too did music, through a performance by Stage Notes and the upbeat tunes of DJ Shamrock, and an unexpected element that came in the finale of the nearly two-hour gala: love.
This was the first year that the show, held at the Bruce M. Wright Memorial Conference Center off Faichney Drive, featured bridal attire, in store owner Kathleen B. Lettieres attempt to increase attendance in the benefits eighth year. It was a desire that worked, in more ways than one, as it turned out: Attendance topped 300, her goal, propelling the amount raised to $3,578 with the help of a $500 donation from Kohls.
But bridal attire also laid the foundation for something Mrs. Lettiere said shed never seen at a fashion show: a marriage proposal by the co-owner of Corleone Limousine, an event sponsor, to the last of the brides to parade down the aisle after the teens and young girls had made their glittery debut, her train flowing, bouquet of white flowers in hand, hair and makeup impeccable.
Kim, youre the love of my life and Id love to spend the rest of our lives together, Darren L. Grant said before a stunned Kimberley A. Kowal, clad in a fitted lace gown, who said she had spent since 9:30 a.m. preparing for the afternoon performance. Entirely unaware of the course the afternoon would take, she said she had no idea why she was the last bride slated to make the walk. She admitted to being slightly overwhelmed, but simply because of the rumored large crowd expectantly lining the runway, and quickly added that participating is actually an honor because every girl wants to be a model and the show not only gave them that opportunity, but did so for a local cause.
After the couple shared a kiss to roaring applause, and Ms. Kowal completed the remainder of her walk teary-eyed, Mr. Grant said hed had the ring since December, and jumped at the idea when Mrs. Lettiere proposed it.
She was one of the brides, he said of his now fiancee in explaining the choice of venue, adding that he was very, very nervous even though he had no doubts shed accept. Well, Im glad she said yes, he said with a laugh. Im proud and blessed to be part of CMN.
Mrs. Lettiere said she was happy with the turnout and the 110 models, including young girls in formal wear and teens in prom fashions, who donated their time, up from 78 last year.
I love CMN, she said. CMN is my charity. CMN does remarkable things for children. I want other children to be healthy. I think its so important.
A Touch of Grace, 440 Coffeen St., donated all of the dresses, and also gave away a $200 dress as one of several raffle prizes. Other event sponsors included Beauty Bar, which styled models hair, Nelsons Dry Cleaning & Formal Wear, Cabana Bay Tanning, R&H Creations, Sherwood Florist, Mary Kay and Kohls, which in addition to its monetary donation provided staff to help the models get ready. The use of the conference center space also was donated.
CMN is housed within Samaritan Medical Center, which offered online sales of tickets to the show for the first time this year.