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Fashion Helps Girls Forget Cancer

'N Sync's Chris Kirkpatrick was dancing back and forth.

Bo Outlaw was waving his long arms around to make a small child laugh.

And a bald eagle was flapping its wings wildly near the wife of a U.S. senator.

It was all happening backstage Tuesday night. And veteran actress and soap star Finola Hughes was in the middle of it all, smiling graciously but wondering whether the event she was about to host would actually work.

It did.

Moments later, the curtains pulled back, and two dozen girls — all of whom have spent far too much of their young lives battling cancer — got a much-needed break from reality and their moment in the spotlight.

The event was the Pediatric Cancer Foundation's "Fashion Funds the Cure." Local notables and celebs escorted each of the girls, ranging in age from 2 to 18, down a runway during a private party at Saks Fifth Avenue at Florida Mall.

Chemotherapy had claimed the hair of some of the young models. But that simply allowed the audience to focus on their brave, beautiful and widely smiling faces.

And event organizers Tara Fontana and Mark and Josie NeJame couldn't help but note that there were few dry eyes in the house.

Radio host Johnny Magic and I escorted 18-year-old Genesis Del Rosario, a senior at Colonial High School. Genesis spent most of high school in treatment. In fact, she missed last year's event because she was in the hospital.

But it has been a year since her bone-marrow transplant. And on this night, Genesis was feeling great. "I have a lot of faith and have tried to keep a positive attitude," she said.

Others escorting girls included former Orlando Magic player Pat Garrity; TV anchors such as WFTV's Vanessa Welch and WESH meteorologist Jason Brewer; U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's wife, Kitty; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer's wife, Karen; and former Olympic diver Mark Ruiz.

Even though Hughes doesn't live in Orlando, the host of the Style network's. How Do I Look? (and former star of General Hospital) said that, after she learned about what these girls were going to do, "You couldn't keep me away."

For more information on the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, visit

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel
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