By Deb Silverthorn
The 2024 Be The Difference Foundation’s Runway for Hope will bring high fashion and high hope for a cure for ovarian cancer and support for patients and their families. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, at the Royal Oaks Country Club. The luncheon and fashion show benefits the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center.
Linda Bezner, with Tom Colven, is co-chairing the event. Former Runway for Hope model and fellow survivor Kezhal Dashti will serve as master of ceremonies.
Bezner is a three-time survivor who was diagnosed after a bothersome stomach issue. A mass was found during a CT scan despite her having a hysterectomy 10 years before. Bezner, who had had endometriosis, had surgery and went through chemotherapy. Cleared after the treatment, she suffered a recurrence six years later and another, two years after that.
“Every cancer patient’s story is different. We are of all ages and walks of life,” said Bezner. “Some have had many symptoms and some none at all.”
This, the fifth Runway for Hope, will be dedicated to Lynn Lentscher, of blessed memory, a founder of Be The Difference Foundation who passed away on Jan. 5. The Runway event, something she and Sheryl Yonick dreamed up, has raised $210,000 at press time to support Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center’s innovative clinical trials while advancing treatment for patients in the future, making a difference in countless lives.
“Lynn’s perseverance has helped to raise thousands of dollars and to work toward finding a cure for this disease,” said Colven. “In this, my fifth year on the Be The Difference Foundation board, I am constantly amazed but not surprised by the absolute and meaningful dedication that everyone connected brings.”
With 56 ovarian cancer trials available at Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, in 2023 the agency consulted with 25 ovarian cancer patients and enrolled six into trials. The agency, which continues to add new trials, endeavors to build programs around a diverse population throughout the community. In addition to the medical trials which support its patients, Mary Crowley is the beneficiary of a grant that allows it to provide transportation, offer childcare and cover lost wages for patients in need.
“Our goal is to extend our patients’ lives, to find lifesaving drugs and ultimately a cure,” said Jennifer Fox, Mary Crowley CEO. “Runway For Hope is such an impactful afternoon with the celebration of life and sharing with some of the most courageous women. Their stories are the stories of our mission.
“We are so appreciative of the relationship we have with Be The Difference Foundation. Their support keeps our clinic functional, allows us to reach more patients and to help those patients focus on their health and families,” she continued. “We want to minimize the burden on the patients as much as possible.”
Seven models, all survivors of ovarian cancer, will “strut their stuff,” a phrase coined by Lentscher, a ’23 event model. Dressed by NorthPark Center’s Nordstrom stylist Jon Adams in both formal and fine casual attire, with hair and makeup provided by Drybar and Nordstrom team members, the models will share about themselves and their survival stories.
“Runway For Hope is such an empowering event. I’m excited to model this year. Each of us was diagnosed at different stages of life and we have each fought a different story,” said Julie Shrell, Be The Difference Foundation co-founder, and former Runway for Hope co-chair, who will make her way down the runway with Kathy Catoe, Cindy Kayanan, Becky Manning, Nicole Moler, Veronica Ortega and Mary Schaar.
In 2012, Shrell got together with Jill Bach, the late Helen Gardner and the late Lynn Lentscher to create the foundation that, through Runway for Hope and BTDF’s annual cycle rides, has raised in total more than $5.4 million.
“We are all so much more than the disease. The experience as a survivor has led each of us to keep going,” said Shrell, “and for us and our families and friends to hold on to hope.”
In addition to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, BTDF has supported numerous organizations, patients and their families by creating awareness and improving the lives of all people affected by ovarian cancer through education, support and research.
Sponsorships are still available. At press time, they include Benchmark Bank, Cadence Bank, Colven, Tran and Meredith, the Gardner Family, Medical City Dallas, Okon Recycling, Precision Investments and David Salomon.
Runway for Hope’s luncheon and fashion show will also host a silent auction with prizes to include a stay and dinner at The Joule, The Sinclair, gift cards, jewelry, a wine collection and more.
To RSVP or sponsor the Feb. 29 event or to make a donation, visit bethedifferencefoundation.org.