Annual fashion show aids Candy’s Place Center for Cancer … – Wilkes Barre Times-Leader

PLAINS TWP. — Placing one black heel in front of the other, Joanne Hite stepped onto the stage, marking her debut in the 8th annual Candy’s Place Fashion Show.

Wearing a black dress donated by Boden and a brightly-colored layered necklace, Hite smiled and waved to the cheering audience as she strutted down the runway.

“I’m just so blessed that I’m even alive,” the two-time breast cancer survivor said after she stepped off the stage, adding that she loved the outfit she modeled.

Hite was just one of 12 cancer patients and survivors that joined Candy’s Place founder Penny Cunningham on stage at the Woodlands Inn on Sunday for the event, which serves as a major fundraiser for the nonprofit.

More than 200 attendees filled the ballroom, enjoying lunch and shopping at a variety of vendors before the show. WBRE-TV’s Kelly Bryne acted as the event’s emcee, with local businesses supplying more than 30 raffle baskets.

After being in remission for more than a decade, Hite was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time in 2016, ultimately undergoing double mastectomy. Then she found Candy’s Place, where she’s been utilizing a variety of resources the organization offers to cancer patients and their families, including working with a trainer to rebuild her arm muscles.

Cunningham founded Candy’s Place in 1998 in memory of her sister, Candice Vincent-Mamary. Mamary was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer in 1997 and died shortly after. Cunningham created the organization to help cancer patients and their families.

“I just felt a presence in my room one day, and (Candice) said to do something constructive with (her) death. I felt that there was nothing in the community for cancer patients,” she said. “I just wanted a homelike atmosphere for cancer patients and their families.

So we started 19 years ago. … I never thought in my wildest dreams we’d be here 19 years later.”

Originally, Cunningham thought to do something involving exercise as a fundraiser for the organization, since she was familiar with athletic events as a fitness instructor. From there, she said the various events snowballed and grew into the fashion show, which has been a staple in the organization for the past 8 years.

Although she’s relocated to the Pittsburgh area to be closer to her daughter, Cunningham often travels to Wilkes-Barre to assist with events for Candy’s Place and visit patients.

She is grateful to the community for all the support that’s been given. As a nonprofit, Candy’s Place runs solely on fundraising and donations, with proceeds from the fashion show and other events going back into patient care. Currently, only two employees are paid through the organization, with the rest of the staff serving on a volunteer basis.

Throughout the event, keywords like “family,” “bond” and “support” were commonplace, but one group in particular gave those words a whole new meaning.

Sitting at a back table, Lori Ostrowski, Jessica Tribbet and Lynne Brensha were finishing lunch as they waited for the fashion show to begin. The trio attended last year’s show — some even modeling in it — but all three noted one big difference in this year’s event.

“We sat at the same table last year, and sitting together this year we realized that all three of us were bald last year,” Tribbet said. “And that’s something that this offers us; a place where we can unite. It’s a beautiful place where we can come and celebrate a year later, the three of us sitting here next to each other with our own hair. To be able to sit here, healthy and in good spirit — that’s a miracle.”

The trio said that while they’re not related through blood, they are a family of their own, sharing in each’s trials and triumphs.

Brensha agreed with Tribbet, explaining that Candy’s Place gave her counseling and resources after she was diagnosed with cancer when she and her family didn’t know what to do next. For Ostrowski, she found the organization after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. She modeled in last year’s fashion show.

“I started going to Candy’s Place for different types of support. I am so thankful that Candy’s Place exists, and I would do anything to support them,” she said.

By Marcella Kester | for Times Leader

Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242

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