ALTON — At Miss Eunice’s Hat Box, the gift shop at Alton Memorial Hospital, the focus is not just on beauty and fashion, but also on strength and survival.
That’s why Susie Bechtold, Alton Memorial Hospital’s gift shop coordinator, will be hosting a special event during Breast Cancer Month called One Step at a Time: Walking the Cancer Journey with Comfort, Care, and Compassion. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Oct. 15, in The Healing Garden and Miss Eunice’s Hat Box (the gift shop) at Alton Memorial Hospital.
At the event, which Bechtold calls “a morning of empowerment, inspiration, self-care and education for the caregiver and patient,” the models may not be New York Fashion Week famous, but they are well-known in these parts for the spirit of survival they carried with them through their own cancer journeys.
“The models are all local women I am inspired by daily,” Bechtold said. Many of the models are hospital volunteers and employees, several are cancer survivors themselves, and some have been caregivers for friends or family members who have battled cancer. A few caregivers will walk the runway in honor of their loved ones who sadly lost their battles.
One of the cancer-surviving models, Jenny Babb Criter, who Bechtold describes as a “joy bomb,” explained that due to the regularity of cancer diagnoses throughout her extended family, she wasn’t sure why she was shocked to learn that she had breast cancer at age 32. However, she has beaten her cancer, as she says, “with the help of several girlfriends, many of whom are nurses,” and recently celebrated her 45th birthday.
“I’m healthy and extremely blessed to be here,” she said.
The fashion show will be emceed by harpist, author and two-time breast cancer survivor Amy Camie, who will tell the audience about the cancer journeys of the models as they walk the runway, showing off the gift shop’s new fall and winter clothing and accessory collection. She will also serve as the event’s guest speaker.
Bechtold explained the new clothing and accessories as “trendy lines of comfortable clothing that appeal to not only a fashionista, but also a patient in treatment. We want them to feel beautiful.”
Camie will also sign copies of her book, “Loving Life…All of It – A Walk with Cancer, Compassion and Consciousness.” Camie’s calming, healing harp music, which will also be available for purchase, has been used for more than 20 years “to inspire and rejuvenate the spirit of those in the cancer, hospice and grief communities,” according to her biography.
Attendees can also look forward to scarf demonstrations for patients who have lost their hair but still want to be stylish, as well as the chance to purchase cancer care packages filled with items that will give comfort to those enduring chemotherapy and their caregivers.
“You may purchase one personally for someone or you may purchase as a sponsor and donate to someone in chemo,” Bechtold said.
Light refreshments, including pink ribbon iced sugar cookies and healing teas, will be offered. And those who just can’t wait for the holidays will be delighted to hear that the hospital’s atrium will be transformed into a winter wonderland, and that attendees will receive a 20-percent-off coupon to be used the day of the event.
Bechtold said she is confident the event will be a “great morning” and “a way to promote our wonderful gift shop to the community.”
To contact Miss Eunice’s Hat Box with questions about the event, call the gift shop’s main line at (618) 463-7493; to learn more about Amy Camie, visit www.amycamie.com.
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