published Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Fashion show raises funds for Siskin programs

  • photo
    Girls have fun in a Jessica Simpson jean jacket, $69, over an Eight Sixty dress, $88. Former Siskin Children’s Institute student Lela KateSorrow wears an empire- style print dress, $72. Fashions available at Belk stores.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

StyleWorks isn't just about the clothing; it's also about the kids.

Money raised through event sponsorships, vendor booth rentals, ticket sales and donations goes to fund programs at Siskin Children's Institute, Mike McJunkin, marketing and communications manager at Siskin, says.

The institute was founded in 1950 as a nonprofit organization to help children with special needs, families and professionals through four areas of focus: education, outreach, health care and research.

"I wasn't sure it was possible, but in the midst of all of the glitz and glamour of the fabulous StyleWorks event, I fell in love with Siskin Children's Institute a little bit more," say Rachael Welch, who co-chaired this year's StyleWorks. "Rachelle Haddock (event co-chairwoman) and I were so overwhelmed with the heartfelt stories some of our moms shared about what it means to be a Siskin family.

"And somehow, in that moment, we became a bit more like sisters through our shared experiences."

Haddock has two sons who attend the Siskin Early Learning Center, and Welch's three children are graduates.

"Siskin has my heart and I think of them as part of my extended family," Welch says, "so I want to help in any way I can."

She and Haddock, as well as Siskin staff and volunteers, began working on this year's event last fall.

"My favorite part of the show had to be our little models from the institute that were paired with some of the beautiful models," Welch says. "Of course, I am a little biased since my twins Zeke and Emmie, age 7, also strutted the runway."

John Farrimond, president and CEO of Siskin Children's Institute, calls StyleWorks a "win/win/win."

"Belk has the opportunity to display their junior fashions, the children have a wonderful time and are a reminder of the inclusive environment we have at the Early Learning Center," he says. " Their appearance at StyleWorks is truly a moment when adorable transforms to inspirational."

Patti Frierson's daughter, Anna, has Down syndrome and was a student at Siskin from the time she was 6 weeks old until she was 6 years old. Now 17, she is now a student at Red Bank High School.

"Our family has a strong passion for Siskin Children's Institute. If the walls could talk, there are so many stories about lives that have been changed," says Frierson, who was on Siskin's board of directors from 1997 until 2009.

A luncheon, held prior to the fashion show, showcases the work of the Siskin Institute and historically includes a film where parents of Siskin students talk about the role Siskin plays in their lives. This year, though, it was a little different.

"The program during the lunch was very moving, with four parents standing up at their tables saying, 'We are Siskin,' and what it has meant to their family -- not a video, but real parents," Frierson says.

Siskin's Early Learning Centers provide preschool education in classrooms of students with and without disabilities. Outreach services from the institute offer support programs for families, professionals and college students. The health care focus includes Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics, which provides assessment, diagnosis and treatment to children with or at risk for developmental delays and disorders.

The Siskin Center for Child and Family Research conducts research to advance the fields of early childhood development and special education.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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