Walking the walk

Fashion show fundraiser at Hospice of Dayton

By Sarah Sidlow
Photo: Designer Erika Berthy’s piece Transient Layers will be auctioned at the Hospice of Dayton Style Show on Sept. 20; Photo: Neysa Ruhl

Where can you see laser lights and live peacocks while Dayton police pour you a glass of bubbly? Only at the 2013 Hospice of Dayton Style Show and Luncheon.

Hospice of Dayton turns 35 years young this year, and as the only nonprofit hospice in the region and one of the first in the country, this place is used to doing things a little differently.

“When you start out planning, you never know how it’s going to come together,” said Marsha Bernard, Hospice of Dayton manager of special events. “Some things don’t happen, and then you meet people who will make a difference and change all that.”

Like a clandestine meeting with an anonymous peacock farmer, who introduced live birds to last year’s style show.

“We always want to do something different that brings us back to our mission,” Bernard said. “We just want to make it so that when people come, they enjoy themselves and they want to come back.”

The birds will be back this year for the show’s new theme: “Colors of Care,” inspired by the spectrum of reasons patients and their families may seek the services of Hospice of Dayton.

“I had a newspaper from October 2010 that had a list of all these ribbons and what they meant,” Bernard said. “I always kept it. So when we were brainstorming, I took it out and we said ‘You know what, we take care of a lot of people, regardless of the reason – heart disease, breast cancer – that’s what we do, this is what it’s all about.’”

So, the team did some more research, looking at not only the struggles each ribbon stood for, but the meaning of the colors behind them. For example, pink – used to signify breast cancer treatment and awareness – represents passion. From there, it really took off, with the help of volunteers and community members, most with personal motivation to give back to the place which had given them so much.

Mike Leesman’s family has been involved with Hospice of Dayton since the early ’90s, and has experienced firsthand the Hospice of Dayton mission: extraordinary care for the patient and for the family.

“When people are dealing with the death of a loved one, which isn’t something they deal with very frequently, there are a lot of things that they just don’t know how to handle,” Leesman said. “Hospice not only helps the patients that they see deal with end of life issues, they also help the families. Having had family members that were in Hospice of Dayton’s care, I can vouch for their ability to do that, in really amazing ways.”

Stories of nurses mowing a widower’s lawn, or bringing a final Christmas to a family in transition are common among Hospice of Dayton-lore. And it’s because of stories like those that Leesman began working with Hospice professionally in the past two or three years.

“I think what they do is so important and they’re so good at it and there are so many people they can affect in a positive way,” Leesman said. “There aren’t too many things that are more worthwhile.”

Leesman and his wife will join other volunteers this fall who will strut down the runway for this worthy cause.

“I’m just excited to do something different and give it a try,” Leesman said. “And it’s for such an amazing cause, whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”

The final piece that will traverse the runway this fall was designed by Erika Berthy, of Gowns by Beartie. It’s called Transient Layers, a rippling vision in layers of silk and chiffon – and hues of blues best described as “dreamy” and “cloudlike.”

“The piece is exploring the layers of our humanity, as well as Hospice’s beliefs on death, which are the same as my personal beliefs, on the transitory stage of death, that hospice is helping [patients] to their next stage,” Berthy said.

The piece was inspired by this year’s colorful theme, by those ever-present peacocks and by Berthy’s own design philosophy of creating one-of-a-kind, wearable art. After its debut on the runway, Transient Layers will go home with the winner of the silent auction.

“I’m so excited about the show and I’m delighted and honored to be a part of it,” Berthy said. “Everyone I’ve told has come back with, ‘Oh Hospice, I love it.’ They were really glad that it was going to Hospice.”

And Marsha Bernard knows how important those personal connections can be. Because of Hospice of Dayton’s longtime not-for-profit status, it relies on events like this one to raise funds and keep the support alive.

“It’s all fun, but it’s also about what we do,” Bernard said. “We’re aware of that with some of the challenges ahead of us. Dayton’s gone through some big changes, and a lot of our sponsors aren’t here anymore. It’s been a tough time for Dayton but the community’s been good to us.”

Hospice of Dayton is preparing itself for more changes ahead.

“With all the baby boomers about to come through, there will be a big need for us, I think,” Bernard said.

But with all the care it has yet to give, Hospice of Dayton is grateful for all the care it’s received.

“We’re really lucky we have a community that takes care of us,” Bernard said. “It’s like a family.”

The 2013 Hospice of Dayton Style Show and Luncheon will be held Friday, Sept. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sinclair Community College Ponitz Center, 444 W. Third St. For more information, please visit hospiceofdayton.org.


Reach DCP freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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