Celebrating its 12th year in support of CHOC Children's, the Anaheim Lady Ducks Fashion Show presented by The Worobey Family and Auction.com was held earlier this week at AV Irvine.
Making its move from a daytime luncheon to an evening affair, the sold-out event is part of an ongoing partnership between CHOC, the Anaheim Ducks, the Lady Ducks and the Anaheim Ducks Foundation that has raised nearly $1.6 million for the hospital over the past 11 years.
Co-chaired by Paige Getzlaf, wife of Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, and Andrea Kesler, wife of Ducks alternate captain Ryan Kesler, the dinner event and fashion show featured a number of fundraising opportunities for guests to support Orange County's own children's hospital. Silent auction and opportunity drawing items included health and spa packages, jewelry, gift certificates, wine tasting and signed Anaheim Ducks player memorabilia.
Open to the highest bidder during a live auction were several one-of-a-kind experiences such as a gaming party at ESports Arena in Santa Ana with Ducks goaltender John Gibson and forward Jakob Silfverberg, a VIP trip to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland, Ohio, and a painting party with Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell at Timree Paint Studio in Newport Beach.
Co-hosted again this year by Anaheim Ducks television host Kent French and ESPN sportscaster Linda Cohn, attendees were treated to a fashion show during dinner featuring a number of Anaheim Ducks players and their significant others walking the runway with CHOC Children's Ambassadors wearing the latest spring fashions from Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza.
"Every time, it's all about CHOC Children's and all that they do," said Cohn, who is in her fourth year co-hosting the event. "It's not a cliché. It's for real. The reason I love coming back is seeing those happy faces of those amazing children. And when you talk about the Anaheim Ducks, it's always consistent. The players don't just show up. They are all in because it helps the community that they and their families live in. That's the difference."
Funds raised from this year's event will go to CHOC's KidsCARE program, a general fund that supports the hospital's greatest needs. Financial support of KidsCARE provides for CHOC's patients and families by supplying essentials such as transportation, meals or support services that aid in the child's recovery.
"We are blessed to have support from not only the Anaheim Ducks, but the Samueli family in what we do here at CHOC," said Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of CHOC Children's, Kerri Ruppert Schiller. "What the Ducks do in partnering with our families is like a breath of fresh air. Our families go through a lot. But knowing that this partnership is strong and that it's here to last is very comforting, not only to us, but to the patients and families that we serve."
Prior to the start of the fashion show, CHOC parent Jason Gladding shared the story of how CHOC treated his son, Nathan, during birth complications and how the support of the doctors, nurses and staff has been instrumental in his family's life.
"I think that's when you really understand what it all means and how this affects families," said Ducks forward Rickard Rakell of Gladding's presentation. "It's such a heartwarming thing to hear him speak. It means a lot."
The evening event culminated with Ducks players strutting their stuff on the catwalk, accompanied by current and former CHOC patients and their siblings as they modeled some of Bloomingdale's hottest spring trends.
With her sparkling burgundy dress, a huge smile and some flossing and dabbing moves for extra measure, five year old Emilee Carlson soaked up the moment as she danced and walked the runway alongside Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and his fiancée Jasmine.
Born with coarctation of the aorta, a critical congenital heart defect where the aorta is narrower than usual and blocks normal blood flow to the body, Emilee underwent eight hours of surgery at CHOC on her walnut-sized heart when she was just three days old.
Now an active kindergartner who, "loves playing soccer and every song by Taylor Swift," Emilee has hit the important milestone of being five years surgery free.
"It was fantastic," Fowler said. "Emilee is a beautiful little girl and her smile lit up the room. She and her family are awesome. It was a really fun night."
After receiving Emilee's heart diagnosis at 31 weeks via ultrasound, Emilee's parents, Shuree and Josh Carlson, were unsure what the quality of life, or even life expectancy, would be for their fourth child. But the cardiology and perinatology team assembled at CHOC and St. Joseph's Hospital gave them the expertise, hope and comfort they needed, both for Emilee and their entire family.
"We are so thankful because CHOC not only cared for our baby, but they cared for us, the parents," Shuree Carlson said. "They cared for our three other children (ages 10, 7 and four at the time) with activities, crafts and fun events. The siblings were welcomed in and were encouraged to know what was going on. The amount of love and care we got at CHOC was unbelievable."
Through her heart surgery experience at CHOC, Emilee met her best friend, 4-year old Ivy Terpstra, who had surgery at CHOC as a newborn for the very same heart condition and walked in the fashion show with Rakell and his fiancée Emmeli.
"Events like this are important for us as hockey players because we are more than that when we play in Anaheim," Fowler said. "Henry and Susan (Samueli) do so much in the community, and as players on their team, we are expected to do the same. Things like this go a long way. For us to get to know the kids and their families personally and help raise some money, you easily give up a few hours of your night to do that."
For Emilee, Ivy and the eight other CHOC Ambassadors who shared the stage that night with their hockey heroes, the event was one more way they and their families could show their gratitude to CHOC for providing critical, and in many cases, life-saving care.
"It's a great honor for our families to be able to give back to CHOC in the small ways that they can," Ruppert Schiller said. "But it's also a way for them to see their child in a very light-hearted, fun environment, something they may not have seen for quite awhile. So this is really a highlight, something they will remember for the rest of their lives."
For more information on CHOC Children's, visit choc.org.