SOUTHINGTON – It was an array of unique creations at the Aqua Turf recently as over 25 bras featuring flowers, rhinestones and feathers were modeled on the runway as part of the 10th annual Art Bra After the Storm Inc. fundraiser to benefit breast cancer survivors.
“It’s really hard to believe from where we came in 2009 to where we are,” said Christine Willett, founder of After the Storm Inc. “Back in 2009 the bras would maybe go for $100 and now they go for sometimes $1,000.”
In 10 years, the organization has been able to raise $287,000 for local hospitals to assist survivors with integrative medicine costs like acupuncture that are not covered by insurance.
This year’s runway show meant more than just success to Willett, who started the organization after she was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her son.
“I’m an 11-year cancer survivor,” she said. “Integrative medicine was just coming about and now it’s the norm, they go together with chemotherapy and your regular radiation and it really helps you feel better.”
Every year community members and local artists design and create meaningful bras for the event which guests bid on during the runway show. An explanation for the inspiration behind the designs is printed in the event program and read during the runway show.
Merrilee Gladkosky, of Wallingford, was one of the designers in a group of women from the North Haven Women’s Congregational Fellowship who designed “It’s All About Balance,” a flamingo-themed bra featuring pink feathers.
“It’s a flamingo that represents balance and getting balance back into your life after you’ve been hit by the storm of breast cancer,” she said. “My best friend was an art teacher in Southington and she died of metastasized breast cancer, way too young.”
Gladkosky said her best friend would have loved the Art Bra event, which inspired her to create a bra along with the North Haven church group.
The inspired “balance” bra was sold during the auction for more than $1,000.
Other designs included a Harry Potter-themed bra called “Griffindor House Cups” and a pink cow girl-styled bra called “Nice Rack” shown by male model Brian Hubbs.
The models danced out in the artists’ creations to a variety of music coordinating with the themed bras.
A raffle was also held for a selection of bras displayed on tables throughout the event hall. More than 500 people attended the 10th anniversary celebration on Thursday.
The Art Bra event is a mix of both light-hearted fun along with poignant memories of those lost to cancer.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of laughs,” Willett said, along with “times where we do remember those survivors that we have lost that have fought a hard battle.”