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One woman’s drive becomes a community’s mission
The Bayhealth Cancer Institute is the philanthropic arm of Bayhealth’s cancer programs. The Cancer Institute helps provide the funding in support of the Bayhealth Cancer Survivorship Program. This program offers ongoing support after a patient has finished cancer treatment. The program is not funded through patients’ health insurance; it is supported by grants and fundraising initiatives throughout the year. Each year, the Bayhealth Cancer Institute hosts Runway of Hope, a fashion-based fundraiser created specifically to support the Survivorship Program.
Behind Runway of Hope is one woman’s decision to make a difference. Susan Chinnici, a member of the Bayhealth Cancer Institute Board, is the founder of Runway of Hope. Chinnici’s vision, along with the Bayhealth Cancer Institute’s Runway of Hope Fundraising committee, helped create the Runway of Hope Fashion Show and Luncheon in 2011. Each year, Runway of Hope exceeds expectations by raising significantly more funds than the previous year. Chinnici and her fellow Runway of Hope committee members devote themselves to planning and creating an event that grows progressively more successful each year.
Chinnici was born in Virginia and raised in Pennsylvania, was educated at Villanova University, and moved to Delaware when her husband Joseph began working for Playtex Industries. From 1979 to 1995, Chinnici worked for Bayhealth as a registered nurse in the med-surg and pediatric units, IV chemotherapy department, and then outpatient services. In 1995, her family relocated to central Maryland, then later, to Annapolis. Still, Chinnici continued to support Bayhealth. In recent years, Chinnici was appointed a member of the board for the Bayhealth Cancer Institute. She has served as the Cancer Institute Board Secretary since 2014 and is completing her final term in that role.
In addition to her work at Bayhealth, Chinnici is a member of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) Board of Trustees. For many years, she and her sister participated in numerous fundraisers on behalf of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Drawing upon her experience at one of the CHOP events, Chinnici was inspired to create a fashion show fundraiser. She applied the fundraising skills learned through her DBCC work and enlisted the help of her friends and fellow Cancer Institute board members. Not long afterward, Runway of Hope was born.
Chinnici’s vision for the first Runway of Hope in 2011 was a beach-themed fashion show and silent auction. Initially, she tried to gain support from major retailers to lend fashions for the event, but was unsuccessful due to corporate policies. Instead, she reached out to Delaware’s beach town boutiques to lend their fashions — and their names — to the event. “They weren’t sold on the idea, but after the first event, quite a few of our vendors wanted to do it again,” she said. Now, many of the vendors volunteer to participate before Chinnici even has the chance to call them because Runway of Hope guests visit the boutiques after the show to buy the designs worn by the models.
Since then, Runway of Hope has raised more than $215,000 in support of the Bayhealth Cancer Institute’s Survivorship Program. In no small way, Chinnici and her committee have contributed to the event’s success; they have personally selected, purchased, and donated hundreds of items for Runway of Hope’s silent auction. Chinnici and her fellow co-chair Shalini Sawhney have been the driving forces behind the event’s success. Later, Bayhealth’s HR Operations and Employee Relations Manager Lauren Brittingham joined Chinnici and Sawhney, and the co-chair duo became a trio. They’re supported by a team of handpicked volunteers whose experience and friendships within the community help the fundraiser continue to grow each and every year.
Now in its sixth year, Runway of Hope includes a luncheon, silent auction, runway model fashion show, survivor event, and business networking event, all rolled into one. Local broadcast celebrities emcee the event, and after the professional models, physicians walk the runway with their families, modeling back-to-school fashions. Nearly 230 people participate each year, either as volunteers or patrons. Runway of Hope is now one of the premier fundraisers in Sussex County.
The Runway of Hope committee is gearing up for another successful year. In fact, the event has grown so much in recent years that they decided to change the venue to accommodate more patrons in 2016. The 6th Annual Runway of Hope will be held Friday, July 22, 2016, at Baywood Greens in Long Neck, Delaware.
After six years of working together, the members of the Runway of Hope work group have developed strong bonds; they know each other’s strengths and skills, and they trust each other. Each member of the committee takes great pride in the success of the event. “They’re great,” said Chinnici. “They’re really hard workers, and they’re generous.”
To Chinnici, all the hard work is worthwhile. “I believe in the cause we’re raising money for,” she said. “And when you help people, you feel good.”
Get involved! You can support Runway of Hope as a sponsor, advertiser, or patron. For more information, contact the Bayhealth Foundation at 302-744-7015 or visit bayhealthfoundation.org.