All ‘Up’-side at Hibiscus’ Blue Ribbon Fashion Show

Cathy Cronin, Pam Larrick and Susie Kintner. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

The 25th Annual Blue Ribbon Luncheon and Fashion Show took flight with an enchanting Up, Up & Away-themed event at the Oak Harbor Club to benefit the Hibiscus Children’s Center.

Organized by co-chairs Cathy Cronin, Pam Larrick and Susie Kintner and members of the Hibiscus Guild, the event soared to new heights to raise funds so that at-risk children removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment or neglect receive the care, guidance and opportunities they need to thrive.

For more than 30 years, Hibiscus has ensured that these children are provided with a safe haven, mental health, preventative care, and life skills training.

After a champagne reception where guests mulled over silent-auction items, they sat down for lunch amidst a sea of blue balloons representing child abuse prevention month.

Linda Teetz, Indian River County Guild president, said that the loving and caring staff at the Hibiscus Village in Vero Beach involves the children in a variety of programs to help them heal. And they are set up for success through programs such as the Career Pathways to Independence program, where they learn graphic design and culinary skills.

“When they participate in these programs, their school attendance increases. Last year, 98 percent of the children at the Village moved up a grade level, and some were on the honor roll,” said Teetz.

“Hibiscus has to raise $3 million every year to sustain business. Hibiscus does get funding from the state and federal government, but it’s not enough to cover everything we do for the kids,” said Matt Markley, HCC CEO, adding that the annual luncheon has raised over $2.2 million since its inception 25 years ago.

He noted that every single day, Hibiscus gets referrals for children who have been removed from their homes and need a place to live.

“One of Hibiscus’ greatest strengths is we help kids imagine what a better life can be,” added Markley before introducing the guest speaker, Dave Miller, who had been a Hibiscus resident about 35 years ago.

At age 5, Miller and his two younger siblings were found in a hotel room in Okeechobee, one week after their mother had abandoned them with only a tiny bag of Oreo cookies to share.

What happened to him as a child impacted who he is today, said Miller, who today is a successful chef and restaurateur in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and two children.

“Core memories are integral to who we become as a person. I remember being so hungry,” said Miller, attributing that memory to his career choice.

He said other memories that stand out, once he finally made it to the safety of Hibiscus, include that it was the first time he had felt clean, that he celebrated a birthday, and that he was hugged and comforted.

The annual Fashion Show, produced by Sobol Fashion Productions, featured Miami-based models showcasing the latest in spring and summer women’s fashion trends from local island shops: Belle Cose, Cooper & Co., Frances Brewster, Island Cashmere, J. McLaughlin, Johnny Was and Sassy Boutique, plus a selection of men’s wear from Vernon Scott.

The afternoon was a testament to the commitment of Hibiscus Guild members and other supporters of the Hibiscus Children’s Center that every child has the opportunity to soar “Up, Up & Away” toward a brighter tomorrow.

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Photos by Joshua Kodis

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