Laura Strosnider looked around.
The glittery, well-dressed crowd at Porsche of Annapolis on Thursday evening was quite a bit bigger than it was eight years ago when models strutted down the runway in the first Fashion for a Cause show.
A few years earlier, Strosmider's 34-year old husband had died in the care of Hospice of the Chesapeake. Inspired by the support she and her husband experienced, Strosmider founded Hospice Hundred, a group of 20- and 30-somethings who volunteer at Hospice activities and create fundraisers.
"I wanted to do something to get my friends involved," she said.
In 2008, the Hospice Hundred members debuted the Fashion for a Cause event, a combination fashion show, auction and trendy scene designed for young area adults – and the young at heart.
The funds raised that year and each year forward benefit Hospice of the Chesapeake's Chesapeake Kids programs, which provide bereavement services including a weekend summer camp and year-round counseling to children and teens grieving the loss of a parent or sibling.
This year's Fashion for a Cause drew more than 250 area fashionistas and raised over $90,000.
It was held in the showroom and cavernous service bay of Porche of Annapolis on Hudson Street.
Ben Marcantonio, president and CEO of Hospice of the Chesapeake, said this is one of the most fun events the organization holds.
"It draws in people we don't usually reach with our message of end-of-life issues," he said. "It supports our pediatric programs and services."
One of the services is two August weekend bereavement camps, Camp Nabi for kids 12 and under and Camp Phoenix for those 12 to 18, scheduled this year for August 12 through 14 at Arlington Echo in Millersville. Recently, the organization has been providing funds to Blue Elephant, a similar hospice program for youth at the Brits-Hartbeespoort Hospice in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Backstage before the runway portion of the evening, Paula McCloud and her assistants were putting the finishing touches on the women's wear fashions, handbags and accessories provided by her shop at Westfield Annapolis Mall, Sandro Ferrone. The Annapolis Sandro Ferrone shop is one of more than 150 worldwide and the only one in the U.S.
The menswear fashions, modeled by four males, were provided by Brooks Brothers and Tommy Bahama. The mannequins' hair and makeup was courtesy of Up Do's for I Do's.
Jason Cherry, the owner of the new Mission Escape Rooms at 40 West in Annapolis, served as the evening's master of ceremonies. His mother, architect Catherine Purple Cherry, designed the rooms at his business.
It was Louben Repke's third year as a runway model. The 2008 Broadneck High School graduate is a registered nurse and owns a personal trainer business in Millersville.
"I love doing this," Repke said. "I do it for the kids."
For 16-year old Charlotte O'Hare, a sophomore at Severn School, it was her first strut for Fashion for a Cause.
"I'm really glad to be doing some good," she said.
Three elementary school kids darted among the cocktail-sipping adults. The trio wore the same Camp Nabi T-shirts. Alyssa Lynn Baxter, 11, and her sister Kayle Baxter, 7, are the daughters of Christina Lynne Baxter, clinical manager of the Hospice of the Chesapeake's pediatric team.
"My kids are here to support the Chesapeake Kids program," Baxter said. "A lot of kids that come through the camps have experienced the loss of someone close to them."
As Marcantonio told the audience, "there is a sense of a journey and purpose as we walk that path with them."