Wendi Abney knows first-hand that life can change in a split second.
For the Slidell-area wife and mother of two, that happened with one sentence she was told in 2013.
“You have breast cancer.”
Those four words sent Abney on a journey that included three surgeries and eight rounds of chemotherapy over a span of two years. It included more hours than she can count at Slidell Memorial Hospital’s Regional Cancer Center, and she said the place and the people there became special to her.
After receiving her last treatment in April 2015, she knew she had to do something for the cancer center staff who helped her, and also for those still fighting the disease.
“After going through that journey, I wanted to give back,” Abney said. “And I wanted to stay local.”
Though she had never coordinated any kind of large event before, she was determined to put something together. And when she met with the Cancer Center foundation in late 2015, the idea for Faith, Hope and Fashion was born.
It’s a fundraiser that features cancer patients and survivors wearing the latest fashions. The proceeds, Abney said, help create care packages for cancer patients.
“My youngest daughter was doing modeling, so I thought this would be fun and different,” Abney said. “We include patients and survivors, men and women, the fighters and the survivors.”
As for the event name, Abney said it was a natural.
“With faith and hope, my family and I got though my cancer journey,” she said. “So when it can time to come up with a name for the event, those two words were important. Through fashion I feel we give the patients of Slidell Memorial Cancer Center faith, hope and some comfort.”
The patients have enjoyed the event, she said, and the community has been generous in support. Last year’s event provided more than 800 kits that contain items to assist patients as they go through treatment, such as a neck pillow, lotion, water bottle and ear buds.
“Patients are sitting there for three to four hours,” Abney said, and the kits are a real help.
Abney and her husband, Rob, have two daughters in college – Alexandra is at LSU and Miranda at the University of Southern Mississippi. Abney said her daughters and husband are key contributors to Faith, Hope & Fashion.
This year’s event is on Sept. 21 at Slidell Airport’s Hangar #15. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the fashion show will start at 7:30 p.m.
About 200 people attended last year, and Abney is expecting more this year. Tickets are $50 for VIPs (seating in the first two rows) and $35 for general admission. The clothing is provided by eight local fashion outlets.
“It has turned into such a community support group for the models,” Abney said. “I have found that so special. They have a blast when they get together. That was an unexpected plus.”
This year’s show will feature 31 models who signed up after hearing about the event through word of mouth, though Abney said anyone interested is welcome to register and take part.
“We also have food and music and items to take chances on and win,” she said. New this year will be a Martini Bar and a contest between Sheriff Randy Smith and Fire Chief Chris Kaufmann to see who can raise the most tips working the bars.
“It makes me so happy to see it all come together,” Abney said. “It’s emotional for me to see what it means to them (the fighters and survivors). It fuels me to keep going. It warms my heart.”
For more information, call (985) 280-8820 or go online to www.smhfdn.org/faithhopefashion.