A few of the participants in the American Girl Fashion Show on Sunday.
A few of the participants in the American Girl Fashion Show on Sunday. (Marc Laytar / University of Maryland Medical Center)

Models strutted down the runway, showing off the latest fashions in vintage and contemporary clothes.

But the event Sunday at the Hippodrome Theatre was no ordinary fashion show.

It was a fundraiser featuring girls ages 5 to 12 years old from across the Baltimore region. They modeled the outfits of the popular American Girl dolls, who represent historical and modern characters, such as Kaya, a member of the Nez Perce Indian tribe, and Addy, who escaped slavery during the Civil War.

Accompanying the girls onstage were matching dolls.

"I'm not nervous about being in front of people because I've done school productions," said a confident Alana Gordon, 9, of Owings Mills, who was dressed as Ruthie, a doll representing the Great Depression era.

The first annual American Girl Fashion Show benefited the University of Maryland Children's Hospital and the Cool Kids Campaign, a nonprofit group in Towson that aims to improve the lives of children with cancer through activities and programs. Organizers put on four shows, two each on Saturday and Sunday, featuring 180 models.

"We love the idea of kids helping kids," said Sharon Perfetti, the group's executive director and fundraiser co-chair. "A great side effect of the fundraiser is that they embraced the charitable aspect of this."

Fundraiser organizers asked the models — who were chosen from 500 girls who took part in three auditions at local malls — to raise at least $20 each, but Perfetti said the girls well exceeded the $3,600 goal. The tally: $52,000 and counting.

"They took it to heart," said Meghan Scalea, a communications manager at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Gordon, who has amassed 10 American Girl dolls, raised nearly $1,900 by selling lemonade and homemade string bracelets and by holding other events. Gordon also got help from her mom, who asked her friends to donate to the cause.

Yvette Jones of Woodstock said she was happy to support her 11-year-old daughter Jordyn's participation because the event encouraged charitable giving and American Girl dolls promote tolerance and diversity.

"It gave her an opportunity to turn her passion into a purpose," Jones said.

Just minutes before the first of the two runway shows Sunday, Jordyn prepared backstage with the rest of the models. She was dressed as Cecile, a girl who lives in New Orleans in the 1850s — one of 11 American Girl dolls she owns.

Jordyn looked forward to walking down the 48-foot runway, though she said she was a little worried: "What if I fall or something?"

Besides the money raised by the girls, as well as $60,000 from ticket sales and proceeds from a silent auction, the event also secured corporate sponsors including PNC Bank and the law firm Bloom & Associates.

"For a first-year event, we are incredibly thrilled by the amount of money that was raised," said Perfetti, who hopes to have a final tally in the coming days. "Usually you break even, but the models have put us over the top."