“Always in Style” fashion show celebrates survivorship in Berlin
Mayor James Bilella declared April 6 Survivor’s Day as seven women told their stories of survival.
It was an emotional night at Paris Caterers. The entire ballroom turned to watch as, one by one, women entered through large double doors to model their outfits. As they walked on the stage, their stories were read to the audience. They were stories of survival.
Each of the seven women had overcome some sort of hardship in her life — whether it was cancer, spousal abuse, or some form of addiction.
On Thursday, April 6, the community gave them the chance to have their stories be heard.
“It’s about honoring women who have struggled so hard with one of these three things and survived,” said Debra Jacob, executive director of Women of Hope Resource Center. She organized the event along with Loretta Mikulski, chair of the SJBCC.
Mikulski herself is a 22-year, four-time breast cancer survivor.
“Seventeen years ago, they told me I would live three years,” Mikulski said.
Models Hillary and Lisa are celebrating their sobriety, while Geana overcame her drug addiction.
“I truly believe my life’s mission is to love those who feel unlovable,” Hillary wrote in her story read to the audience. She is celebrating seven years of sobriety, and is making it her mission to help out other women overcoming struggles.
Lisa has been sober since May 20, 2014, after an 18-month relapse. Her fiancé passed away five days after her two year sobriety anniversary, but she says her faith remains strong, and is in school for drug and alcohol counseling.
Geana’s parents abused drugs, and she was able to resist following in their footsteps until she was 25. After she got in trouble in 2016, she turned her life around. Now back in college, she hopes to become a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.
Models Deane, Donna and Stephanie are all cancer survivors.
Growing up, Deane’s grandmother always taught her thorough skin care routines, and she makes her own natural skin care products.
Donna was diagnosed with stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form. Donna described her cancer as a journey, and that it helped her see how much her supportive friends and family mean to her.
“Even though she had cancer, cancer never had her,” she wrote in her story.
Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, and encourages women to be proactive when it comes to their health. She has been cancer free for two and a half years.
Model Alexis dealt with 10 years of verbal, emotional and physical abuse from a significant other. After she was rushed to the hospital to get four staples in her leg, she decided she could not “live this lie anymore.” She was inspired by last year’s fashion show.
In only one year, Alexis was able to get a job, get her kids into daycare, lease a car, and get her life back for the first time in 11 years.
Before the models told their stories, Mayor James Bilella read a proclamation celebrating April 6 as Survivor’s Day.
“We want those who are enduring [difficult circumstances] to know that there is hope, they have support, and they can survive,” he read. “We are not recognizing survivors, but thrivers.”
The event was presented by SJBCC and the Women of Hope Resource Center, and was sponsored by MD Anderson Cooper.
Other sponsors included Meinhart Tree Service, Reliance Treatment Centers, Cannon Pest Control and Zallie’s Shoprite of West Berlin.
Local vendors included Farmers Insurance, Forget Me Not Chocolates, Lilla Rose, LuLaRoe, Reliance Treatment Centers, True Salon Breast Cancer Boutique, Tupperware, Usborne Books, Women of Hope Resource Center, and Your Path Financial.
Outfits were provided from Boscovs, Glassboro Thrift, Greatest Find Thriftique, Hope Thrift, and St. Vincent DePauls Thrift.
Participating salons included 91 South Salon, Nail Magic & Hair Design, True Salon & Boutique, Tranquility Salon & Spa, Salon 7, and Unlimited Salon & Spa.
Mikulski said all participating businesses donate their services.