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By night, the tents are a pulsating pastiche of lights, sights, sounds, and seams. But Thursday, the tents did a quick change that would have blown the most seasoned model's mind. Guests arriving at the Catwalk for Kids fundraising luncheon discovered the coveted front row (and subsequent rows) had been replaced by scores of tables dressed in a delicate shade of sea foam blue. Stemware lined each setting—crystal soldiers saluting the midday meal, or mimosa. With the schedule of events that spanned three hours, many guests settled in to sip-a-spell, and the champagne flowed like a spring tide.
The first course, a dense hunk of tuna carpaccio, came courtesy of O-Ku, Chef Brett McKee's Nobu-styled restaurant that had its official debut later that night. And while eating gets a bad rap in the fashion world, the cappuccino panna cotta provided by Kaminsky's was an ethereally dainty dessert too good to pass on. The clink of spoons scraping the bottom of the dessert glasses was a poetic sound.
Founder and event emcee Mary Norton was radiant in her triumph over a difficult year, which she alluded to during opening remarks. Guests at last year's Catwalk for Kids will recall Mary seemed to be at the pinnacle of her handbag and shoe design career with an eponymous line stocked at Saks and branded boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York City, and Charleston. Although the line went bankrupt, it was recently reported that Mary won back the right to use her name, so here's wishing her much success with future endeavors. Given her verve and passion, we predict a phoenix-like return to the world of accessories. After all, she is a wiz with feathers!
Mary welcomed glamour guru Carmen Marc Valvo, whose gowns are a staple on Hollywood's red carpets. Models sauntered down the runway in his signature designs. A flowing fuchsia number with a floor-dusting hemline wowed the crowd, but it was a black column—exquisite in its restraint—that winked at the haute side of fashion.
Following the parade of lovelies, two courageous families took to the stage to share their very personal, very poignant stories regarding the Medical University of Charleston's Children's Hospital, where Mary volunteers her time and talent to help children with cancer create whimsical handbags. With a goal of raising $200,000, the amount needed to add another doctor to staff, the event segued to the live auction.
Auctioneer Doug Warner—bless him for being a good sport—appeared on the runway in three-inch high heels, which he rocked! Anyone who's attended an auction presided over by Doug can attest to his exuberance for a good bidding war. He'll holler, jump about, and toss out a good fist pump when bidders are engaged in a passionate pas de deux. Add a pair of stilettos to the mix and you have quite the funny sight to behold! And what a show it was as bids for handbags designed by celebrities began to pick up steam.
Here's a hot tip on how to raise a pretty penny is a slick minute: position two gregarious car dealers on either side of the auctioneer—and within view of one another. Sit back and enjoy the show!
By the time the bag credited to actress Kristin Stewart sold for $50,000, Doug's high heeled hoppings had burned the caloric equivalent of his panna cotta (and then some). Thanks in large part to the generosity of one particular donor, who amassed quite the handbag collection by the end of the auction, the fundraising goal was well exceeded. What a tremendous gift to the doctors and patients of the Children's Hospital!
As if food, fashion, and frenzied bidding were not enough, the event ended on a high note—and what a beautifully sounding note it was. The program described him as warm and winsome. Fans who know him personally—and recall knocking back beers together following shows at Cumberland's many years ago—the terms are a perfect description of Edwin McCain, who closed the event with several songs.
As images of MUSC's young patients, with their toothy smiles and hairless heads, flashed on the screens behind Edwin's acoustic set-up, a line from his hit "I Could Not Ask For More" took on special meaning:
Smiling just to see the smile upon your face
These are the moments I thank God that I'm alive
Congratulations, Children's Hospital and Mary for a wonderful day of fun and fundraising.