PURCELLVILLE, Va. – For a lovely teenage girl suffering from bone cancer, the opportunity to attend the runway shows of New York Fashion Week seemed like an unattainable dream, something only experienced by the rich, the famous or the artistically gifted. But that’s exactly what Courtney was able to do, with the help of a little guardian angel magic from Kids Wish Network.
This determined fashionista is a big fan of reality shows Project Runway, The Rachel Zoe Project and America’s Next Top Model, and not merely because she has a passing interest in the fashions for teens at her local mall. Courtney dreams of someday becoming a part of the over-the-top styles, celebrity-studded crowds and the chaotic pace that defines New York Fashion Week.
As Courtney’s classmates completed the first semester of their senior year in high school, Courtney spent the holidays and six weeks thereafter in the hospital, diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma of the bone. She had been experiencing a great deal of pain that was finally found to be caused by malignant tumors in the bones of her pelvis. Courtney began chemotherapy treatments that continued for almost a year. During that time, she also endured radiation, which required that she be treated in Boston, far from her home in rural Virginia. The type of cancer that Courtney battled has a high recurrence rate, but Courtney has handled her situation calmly and maturely, as she handles most situations that come her way.
What turned into one of the most influential adventures in Courtney’s life began as late-night perusing of the internet by Courtney’s mother, Lindsey, who found the Kids Wish Network web site. After Lindsey called the charitable organization, which grants wishes to children facing life-threatening illnesses, Courtney was assigned to one of the charity’s wish coordinators, Madeline. When Courtney explained that her fondest wish would be to see one of the star-studded shows during New York Fashion Week, Madeline began putting together the itinerary that would make Courtney’s wish come true. With the generosity of some very special sponsors, Courtney was able to experience much more than she had ever imagined.
As Courtney arrived in New York City, she enjoyed looking at the skyline and being around all the lights and the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, which she described as a huge contrast to her hometown in the country. Her Fashion Week experience began with the very modern Herve Leger show at Bryant Park, where she watched from her spot in line as reality star Whitney Port entered the show. Once inside, she also spotted Lucy Liu, Sophia Bush, Michelle Trachtenberg and Amanda Bynes in the couture-clad crowd. Next on Courtney’s agenda was the exciting Diane Von Furstenberg show, where she saw first-hand some of the prints for which the designer is famous. She saw Julia Stiles, Diane Sawyer, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Anna Wintour (from Vogue), and one of stylist Rachel Zoe’s assistants, Brad, who were all enjoying the show.
“Brad was seated near us, and I recognized him from her [Zoe’s] TV show on Bravo, so I actually got to talk to him for a little while. He was such a nice guy!” Courtney recounted.
The conclusion of day one in New York City was a luxurious dinner aboard The Bateaux New York, where Courtney and her family enjoyed gourmet food and songs of the city against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
Day Two brought a flirtier side of fashion, in the form of the Jill Stuart show, where poised for action in the front row were some of The Real Housewives of NYC, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Michelle Trachtenberg and Kirsten Bell. Courtney gushed, “Paris and Nicky walked past us afterwards on the sidewalk, surrounded by paparazzi. My sister even picked up a lip gloss that fell out of Paris’ purse!”
After lunch at the beautiful Bryant Park Grill, it was off to the very trendy Alice + Olivia, where Courtney again caught up to the Hilton sisters.
A slower Day Three followed, with time between fabulous early morning and evening shows for some unstructured sightseeing. Badgley Mischka, started the day off right as the duo showed off their elegant dresses to a crowd that included American Idol’s Kelly Pickler, pop singer Kat Deluna and two of the Kardashian sisters. That evening’s Max Azria show celebrated femininity and brought out celebrities such as Joy Bryant, Alicia Keys, and Rachel Bilson.
Day Four was a real treat for a special young lady who is eyeing a career “in the biz,” as it included a behind the scenes look at Castle Hill Apparel, a respected ladies apparel company that sells its designs in department stores in the U.S. and internationally. Courtney explained, “The tour of Castle Hill Apparel was a great learning experience for me. I definitely had no idea how a fashion business actually works on the inside and Monique, the company’s design director, was really detailed and obviously very enthusiastic about what she does, which was great.”
Last but not least was the Brian Reyes show, where Courtney was treated to a backstage pass. “The Brian Reyes show was so unique, especially knowing how hard it is to get backstage!” said Courtney.
In explanation of all that the trip meant to Courtney, she said, “My experience with Kids Wish Network has been really, really awesome. Madeline did more than I could ever have expected! When I first made my wish, I was hoping to maybe attend one show. So I was SO surprised when I got the itinerary and saw seven shows! Plus, the addition of the meals on Bateaux New York, Bryant Park Grill, Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality and Planet Hollywood really made the trip special. All in all, Madeline really outdid herself!”
“This trip meant so much to me, and it was one of the greatest weeks I’ve had in a long time! Actually, the trip inspired me to apply to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Fashion Merchandising program as soon as I got home. Being immersed in the fashion industry for just a little while last week really gave me the push to make my dream of working in fashion a possibility, and I owe it to Madeline and everyone at Kids Wish Network!” Courtney continued.
Lindsey concluded, “This trip was a wonderful escape for our entire family. We were immersed in a world of glamour and glitter, so unlike our usual day-to day-life. We have not had a family vacation since Courtney became ill in late 2007, and this was such fun! We would never, ever, have experienced something like this on our own!”
For making Courtney’s wish special, Kids Wish Network would like to thank: Diane Von Furstenberg, Jill Stuart, Badgley Mischka, Brian Reyes, Max Azria, Herve Leger, Alice + Olivia, Castle Hill Apparel, U.S. Limousine Service, Roosevelt Hotel, Bateaux New York, Southern Hospitality, Planet Hollywood and Bryant Park Grill.