Runway to Recovery Fashion Show and Tea was presented by The Southeast Georgia Oncology Nursing Society at the Elks Lodge #183 on June 7.

When Vivian Palefsky called with an invite to watch 12 men and women in a fashion show that celebrates their life, I simply ask, “What day and what time do you need me there?”

Arriving at the iconic Elks Lodge on Wilshire, I am immediately greeted with a monster hug from Woodmen of the World’s Raymond Sili and pulled over to meet his tall talented wife Jennifer who is busy decorating the table with flower arrangements.

Hanging out with them is Boise, Idaho visitor, 11-year-old Bella Rehl and a lady that looks so familiar that it takes minutes for me to realize that I am talking to Dr. Elena Rehl, the Surgical Oncologist that recently replaced our beloved Dr. Paula Denitto when she retired earlier this year.

Raymond and Jennifer Sili, Bella and Elena Rehl

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This poor woman endures hearing my extensive history with her office and graciously compliments Jennifer in her role as the “hand holding” Breast Cancer Navigator at Memorial and praises Raymond on his gardening, baking and sauerkraut making ability.

Shaking my head at how Raymond has better domestic skills than I do, I happily head over to the models dressing room and get a chance to talk with familiar face LaShonda Green, the Guest Services Manager at Coastal Heritage Society, fashionista of shoes and breast cancer fighter.

Still in treatment, the gorgeous model tells me that she is “focusing on the finish” while Takesha Green, Latricia Reisert and Carolina Fernandez finish makeup and last minute clothing adjustments before hitting the runway.

After waiting for Mariela Villa, Angela Comfort and Elexus Dallas to pose for a perfect picture, I say hello to the Elk’s Exalted Ruler, Al Deutsch, and Board of Director’s Elliot Palefsky before they pick up the $2,000 check they are presenting to the SEGAONS today.

Waiting in the wings for their fashion debut are dapper dressed James Williams and Bob Weitermann. Both gentlemen seem nervous or a little quiet, but it could seem that way because Italian dynamo Leonora Raggi has breezed into the room!

The native Italian filtered through New Jersey before moving to Savannah and is happy to pose with Macy’s energetic Kim Donaldson while elegant Patricia Brutcher and beautiful Brenda Bell take their place in line for their fashion debut.

Back out in the ballroom, I snap pic after pic before ending up at a table filled with Elk royalty. Sharon Johnson, Karen Crawford, Martha Petrides and Frances McGlohonpartner up for a quick model session while Dot Waldhauer, Carol Haymore, Dee Christyand Jerry Nettle take a perfect pic on the first click!

Asking the ladies to tell my other mother, Iona Denmark, that I miss her, I take a seat with SPOTTED icon Shelley Mobley as the first model, Takesha Green, takes the floor. Not a speck of nervousness shows on the management analyst and breast cancer fighters face while she passes the next model, Mariela Villa.

In a strapless white pantsuit, you would never know that the senior high school student is fighting leukemia by her feisty attitude and perfect poses, and you can’t question Patricia Brutcher’s faith in God when she tells how much she loves Joel Osteen.

Next, Carolina Fernandez holds tight to her young son Luke’s hand as she turns the floor over to “don’t worry, be happy” Angela Comfort followed by exuberant 18-year-old Elexus Dallas who has just returned from her very first vacation while Afshan Javed sneaks in for his turn on the runway.

Seriously, James Williams is a mean purple suit wearing machine. Patricia Brutcher and her granddaughter Kristen celebrate her mantra “I live now” while Mariela Villa grabs the mic and says, “Cancer is not a deathbed, it’s my new assignment and I am fearless.”

Between the thunderous applause for this sassy teen and for ferocious Takeska Greenthrowing her wig off and marching down the runway with her hands in the air, I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon being inspired by the courageous fighters here today.

With a final snack of some scrumptious shortbread fruit cakes, I manage to get a quick chat with Vivian who shares, “With the money raised from today’s 200 supporters we divide it among our local hospitals, hospice and help patients during the holidays with dinners or gifts for their family.”

Yet another good reason to be at next year’s 18th celebration of life fundraiser that gives the nurses, supporters and volunteer’s another way to give hope and love to their patients, their families and loved ones! Well done, ladies!

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