Strutting for support
Photos: Be The Difference Foundation 
The 2022 Runway for Hope event, shown here, raised more than $60,000.

2023 Runway for Hope event will be held Feb. 23

By Deb Silverthorn

Be The Difference Foundation will lay out the teal carpet for its Runway for Hope models and supporters from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Royal Oaks Country Club. The luncheon and fashion show benefits ovarian cancer trials at Dallas-based Mary Crowley Cancer Research.

“It is such an honor to partner with Be The Difference Foundation. With their help, we can conduct more ovarian cancer clinical trials in order to find treatments for this cancer. The Runway For Hope fashion show and luncheon now allows us a platform to educate and inform more women about ovarian cancer, its symptoms and current available drugs as treatment,” said Deborah Montonen, MCCR vice president and chief development officer.

Supported by Be The Difference Foundation, in 2022 alone, Mary Crowley Cancer Research referred and consulted on 30 ovarian cancer patients; 16 new patients were enrolled in studies with 29 ovarian cancer-focused studies in place.

The 2023 Runway for Hope is co-chaired by Linda Bezner and Tom Colven, with Kezhal Dashti serving as the event’s master of ceremonies. Event sponsors are Cadence Bank; Colven, Tran & Meredith, P.C.; Blooming Accents; Benchmark Bank; Texas Oncology; Nordstrom; cancerGO; and drybar.

During the program, Designs by Sarina and Your Queen Bead will host pop-up shops to benefit the event and raffle items including a photofacial face treatment at Enlighten MD, dinner for six with wine pairings at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse, Nordstrom and Rudolf’s Meat Market and Sausage Factory gift cards, Style in the City fashion makeover, skincare products and Botox treatment from Dallas Associated Dermatologists and a beauty self-care gift basket donated by Dashti Media.

Bezner, a three-time survivor of nearly 20 years, was diagnosed after a “twinge” in her stomach bothered her. She went to a gastroenterologist and, despite her having had a hysterectomy a decade before, a mass was found during a CT scan. Years earlier, Bezner had had endometriosis, now thought to be a possible precursor. She had surgery and went through chemotherapy before being cleared. Six years later, she suffered a recurrence — and, two years later, another.

“I have again been clear for eight years and, while it is always on my mind, I feel good and live in ‘this’ moment, every moment. I’m thrilled with Tom as my co-chair. It’s an uplifting event, we’re thrilled to be in-person and this cause is so important,” said Bezner who walked the Runway for Hope catwalk in 2019.

Dashti first connected with the Be The Difference Foundation in 2019 when a contingency appeared on a WFAA story about the organization’s Wheel to Survive. At just 21, before her last semester at Texas Christian University, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, she is dedicated to supporting others who walk in her path.

“My only symptoms were that I was fatigued, and I looked pregnant — I wasn’t! The doctors went in to remove a ‘fibroid’ and I woke up to a malignant stage 1C ovarian cancer diagnosis. I was 21. It was Friday the 13th, but Dr. Jayanthi Lea at UTSW and her team saved my life. I had chemo, and finished school a semester late, but I was alive,” said Dashti, who was also a Runway for Hope model in 2019.

With her husband, Nate Barrett, Dashti co-founded Dashti Media. The two, who are content creators and talent, have produced numerous videos for Be The Difference Foundation and its programs.

“I met the Be The Difference team and wow — my voice, and my heart, are theirs. I love the values of the organization, the work they do and the real difference they make. Runway for Hope is just that. It gives those of us who fought to survive this disease, which can strip us of our womanhood, peace, strength and an opportunity to feel beautiful and empowered,” said Dashti.

Ovarian cancer survivors Crystal Finney, Julianna Greer, Darlene Hess, Sandi Knight, Lynn Lentscher, Eve McCandless, Ann Rubin and Esther Wooden are the 2023 Runway for Hope models.

Ann Rubin was diagnosed in 2009 when a spot was noted on her left ovary during an unassociated procedure. It was cancerous; she had a hysterectomy, chemo and — after testing positive for the BRCA-2 gene — a prophylactic double mastectomy.

“Actually, my doctor had been watching a spot on my right ovary; this was totally unexpected. I have volunteered and supported Be The Difference for many years and am glad to do anything to help them, help others. I’m sure this will be a wonderful affair,” said Rubin.

Lentscher, a co-founder of Be The Difference Foundation, is a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor of more than 25 years.

“I am so proud of Runway for Hope and to have helped kick it off. We have sold every seat since our inaugural year. We can’t stop sharing our survivor stories,” she said.

“Cancer is not an easy thing and, while I have survived and I am so grateful for that, life is affected forever after. There may be stumbles, but we have to keep going, face the bad blows and go on,” continued Lentscher, still plagued by adverse effects related to the chemotherapy treatments she underwent years ago. “Life is a privilege and I’m tellin’ ya, I hope whatever I’m wearing is sexy and tight. It’s my time to strut!”

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