WEST PALM BEACH — As Breast Cancer Awareness Month moves into high gear, the organizers of one of the most fashionable nights in Palm Beach County have prepared a special tribute to the pink event’s late founder.
Cancer took cosmetologist, entrepreneur and educator Vanessa Robinson from this world on April 23. More than 400 people packed her May 3 memorial service at Inlet Grove High School in Riviera Beach.
Now her friends and supporters say they’re determined to preserve Robinson’s legacy as founder of the Pink Strydes organization and its signature fundraising event.
The third annual Pink Strydes Affair, celebrating the lives of breast cancer survivors, is set for Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 advance, $40 at the door and can be purchased at pinkstrydes.org
The benefit event, part of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization’s $250,000 campaign, showcases cutting-edge designers and fashions strutted on the catwalk by women of all ages, sizes and ethnicities. This year’s host is comedian and actress Cocoa Brown (star of Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse”), with the event preceded by a tailgate party, music, free food and a chance to get mammograms.
Pink Strydes CEO Cynthia Holloman said the organization was conceived after Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer on Jan. 18, 2012, and needed something to help her through a mastectomy and related therapies.
“Every week I went with her to her chemotherapy treatments when she had it, and she had pen and paper in hand, and we planned the very first Pink Strydes Affair fashion show,” Holloman said. They sought women who wanted to tell their stories, “but didn’t find many who were willing to share that with the public. So I wasn’t sure that we would be able to pull it off.
“But Vanessa was tenacious,” said Holloman. “She had a boldness about her and a way about her that people warmed up to, and they were willing to come aboard when they knew that she headed this project.” When the crowds streamed into that first show, Holloman said, “I knew that this was something we had to continue because they believed in what we were doing. “
That early dream is reality thanks to her friend of 27 years, who Holloman said “started her own business very young, maintained it up until her death, and was well known as one of the best hairdressers, cosmetologists and platform artists in Palm Beach County. To lose her at such a young age, at 42, I’m still having a hard time coming to grips with that.”
But Pink Strydes is “everything that she envisioned this organization to be,” Holloman said. “We recognized that women of color needed an outlet and a resource to come to, other than the major ones that are looking at research for breast cancer, but didn’t touch their daily needs.
“That’s how we came about. And we realized that we needed to be known for more than just the fashion show. We needed to be there as a support to women. And the way we can do that is by our initiatives.”
Pink Strydes increasingly is offering full service support for women going through breast cancer, she said, such as early detection education, and help with medication co-pays, with assisted living, with children, and with daily activities they can’t handle when going through the challenges on their own.
“To make the burden a lesser one” is the organization’s tagline, Holloman said.
“That’s what we’re all about. We want people to understand how much Vanessa meant to this organization — and how we feel about carrying forth the vision that she had for Pink Strydes.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Pink Strydes Affair
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. West Palm Beach
COST: $35 in advance; $40 at door
INFO: Visit pinkstrydes.org