URI Student Part of Breast Cancer Survivor Fashion Show

Mandy Zito, 36 and a University of Rhode Island senior, will take part in the breast cancer Survivor Fashion Show on May 12.

The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation presents the 2012 “Our Heroes” Annual Survivor Fashion Show on Saturday at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with a unique “vendor marketplace,” including event sponsor Alex and Ani. The show begins at 7 p.m.

This year marks the fifth “Our Heroes” Annual Survivor Fashion Show, held every May to celebrate the unique spirit and beauty of breast cancer survivors, 15 of whom will take to the runway as the show’s models.

Their hero escorts — loved ones, doctors, military personnel and emergency response professionals — and audience members will be treated to fashions provided by Botticelli of North Providence, Sonya’s of Cranston and Off Broadway Shoes of Warwick.    

“Breast cancer does not discriminate,” said one of the event’s organizers, breast cancer survivor Carol Ann Donnelly. “That’s the theme of this year’s show. Breast cancer doesn’t care about race, gender, height, weight or age.”

Rhode Island native Mandy Zito, a 36-year-old breast cancer survivor, is modeling for the first time in the “Our Heroes” Annual Survivor Fashion Show.

“Runway modeling is something that I’m really excited but nervous about doing,” she said, “because I’ve never done it before.”

A senior at the University of Rhode Island studying human development and family services, Zito now lives in Exeter and is currently an intern at the Pawtucket-based Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

“That’s how I first became deeply involved in the community of breast cancer survivors,” she said. “Ultimately I want to go into social work with a focus on women’s health so the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation was a perfect fit for me.”

She added, “Since I’m a survivor myself, I was a perfect fit for them.”

“Mandy has a gift for support,” said Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation Executive Director Maria Gemma. “She truly exemplifies our mission to raise awareness of and ultimately improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients.”    

This semester, Zito has been working with The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation on developing a survivor-facilitated support group oriented toward women under 40.

“When I was diagnosed with triple-negative,” Zito said, “I was 33 and I didn’t even know there were different kinds of breast cancer.”

After Zito’s diagnosis and during her treatment, her career goals began to shift and she left her job as a preschool teacher, a position she held for 13 years.

“In many ways,” Zito said, “it was a new lease on life.”

Zito, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, said, “Before I was diagnosed, I used to do the breast cancer walks and I knew there was something there that I wanted to tap into.

“But after I was diagnosed I realized that survivors make up a real community, a support network. I learned so much from fellow survivors and I just hope I can do the same for others as I finish school and start my new life.”   

Maria Gemma added, “With this focus on younger women, Mandy Zito is helping us remind people that breast cancer is not just your grandmother’s disease anymore. The fashion show is a perfect venue for us to do just that.”

The entertaining evening promises to leave participants and guests with memories of a night they won’t soon forget. Spectators will be treated to broad variety of international food offerings and Irish step and salsa dancers and, of course, a one-of-a-kind fashion show.  

Individual tickets cost $42 each. A table for 10 people can be reserved for $400 and corporate sponsorship packages begin at $500. To purchase tickets, or to become a vendor or sponsor, please call (401) 861-HOPE (4376). Proceeds benefit the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

About the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation

The Gloria Gemma Foundation was established in 2004 in loving memory of Gloria J. Gemma and to honor her courageous fight against breast cancer. The organization’s mission is to raise breast cancer awareness; increase breast health education; enhance the quality of life for breast cancer patients, as well as their families and friends; and generate funding for local breast health programs. For more information, please call 401-861-HOPE (4376) or visit www.gloriagemma.org.   

Release courtesy of the Rickman Group on behalf of the Gloria Gemma Foundation.

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Julie Giantonio May 11, 2012 at 11:11 AM
So beautiful Mand! Proud of you & love you, xoxo
Jennifer Wilson May 11, 2012 at 11:30 AM
You look beautiful Mandy!
jenn May 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Awesome Mandy!!! You are such an inspiration and a beautiful woman!! All my best!!
Stephen Greenwell May 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM
As an FYI, Cranston Patch has an article up about another participant: http://patch.com/A-tmd7


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