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Survivor model cherishes Pink Ribbons experience

Claire Jackson and her daughter, Laura. Photo credit: Kristen Alexander

Claire Jackson and her daughter, Laura. Photo credit: Kristen Alexander

The pinktacular month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, kicked off as always with the Pink Ribbons luncheon and Belk fashion show, featuring the works of designer Karen Kane.

Nearly 600 people attended the venerable annual event, which was chaired by Cassy McCaffrey with co-chair Audra Dial and honorary chair Kaedy Kiely and held in the newly refurbished Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead ballroom. As always the crowd hooted when the male models (brave souls, they are) strutted their stuff.

Also as always, there was scarcely a dry eye when survivor models including Susan Haidet, Robin Kreitner, Ann Lewis, Shondia McFadden-Sabari, Sue Saban, Freida Spencer, Carla Sweetwood, Angela Thomas and Sheila Wynne, strolled down the runway during the tribute segment of the event.

The always-moving event was especially touching to Claire Jackson.

“I was diagnosed for the first time in 1999,” she said. “I just wanted to forget about it.”

She came to Pink Ribbons, though, and it was love at first site.

Designer Karen Kane, who says animal prints are big this season and whose work was featured during the PInk Ribbons luncheon, has a personal connection with the cause. A niece and a friend's twin daughters have each fought breast cancer (one has just been diagnosed a second time).

Designer Karen Kane, who says animal prints are big this season and whose work was featured during the PInk Ribbons luncheon, has a personal connection with the cause. A niece and a friend's twin daughters have each fought breast cancer (one has just been diagnosed a second time).

“It was such a fun event, so positive,” she said. Over the years she got involved, sponsoring tables and even chairing the event. Then this year she got news she never thought she would receive: the cancer had returned.

“I’ve been there, done that,” Jackson said. “I know I can survive this time.”

She had taken a break from the event, but as she was orchestrating her second round of recovery, she reached back out to event organizers.

“I need Pink Ribbons,” she told them. “It’s like a sorority. I’m usually a very shy person, but getting up there and feeling the love, seeing my friends, you don’t feel alone.”

She certainly isn’t alone now. With the assistance of her 16-year-old daughter Laura, who helped her get dressed, Jackson took the runway again this year during the survivor model segment. Going forward, she plans to stay involved with Pink Ribbons, which was founded by Dr. Sheldon Lincenberg. The 18-year-old event benefits the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, which supports research and works to provide breast cancer screenings to all women; and the Metro Atlanta Breast Cancer Angel Fund of the Eric R. Beverly Family Foundation.

“My heart is for women who can’t afford to get a mammogram and can’t afford treatment,” Jackson said. “I feel like I need to do more, to educate people and to get it stopped. Until you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you can’t know what it’s like. You realize you’re stronger than you thought you were.”

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