Cancer Champions

A touching day with Texas Children's Cancer Center champions — one to always remember

A day with Texas Children's Cancer Center champions is one to remember

News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Mary Gracely, Tony Gracely, Alejandro Mendoza, Aniya Donarine
Tony Gracely, Alejandro Mendoza, Mary Gracely, Vanda Wagner. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green
Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Shafik Rifaat, Shelby Hodge, Tacy Raulerson
Shafik Rifaat, Shelby Hodge, Tacy Raulerson. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Betty Tutor, Jesse Tutor, Avery Speaks
Betty Tutor, Jesse Tutor, Avery Speaks. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith, Kaiy Matthews
Rick Smith, Kaiy Matthews, Tiffany Smith. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015Scott Basinger, Sidney Faust, Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert
Celebration of Champions founders Scott Basinger, Sidney Faust, Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Cyvia Wolff, Melvyn Wolff, Disree Hall, Liliana Sanchez-Ramirez
Cyvia Wolff, Melvyn Wolff, Disree Hall, Liliana Sanchez-Ramirez. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, shelby, Celebration of Champions,  Doe Florsheim, Henry Florsheim, Aniya Deonarine
Henry Florsheim, Aniya Deonarine, Doe Florsheim. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Dr. David Poplack, June Poplack
Dr. David Poplack, June Poplack. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Steve Mach, Joella Mach
Steve Mach, Joella Mach. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Tena Faust, Tyson Faust
Tena Faust, Tyson Faust. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Penny Loyd, Paul Loyd, Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green
Penny Loyd, Paul Loyd, Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Jan Duncan, Harry Mach, Cora Sue Mach
Jan Duncan, Harry Mach, Cora Sue Mach. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Sybil Roos, Betsey Garlinger
Sybil Roos, Betsey Garlinger. Photo by John R. Lewis
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Mary Gracely, Tony Gracely, Alejandro Mendoza, Aniya Donarine
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Shafik Rifaat, Shelby Hodge, Tacy Raulerson
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Betty Tutor, Jesse Tutor, Avery Speaks
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith, Kaiy Matthews
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015Scott Basinger, Sidney Faust, Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Cyvia Wolff, Melvyn Wolff, Disree Hall, Liliana Sanchez-Ramirez
News, shelby, Celebration of Champions,  Doe Florsheim, Henry Florsheim, Aniya Deonarine
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Dr. David Poplack, June Poplack
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Steve Mach, Joella Mach
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Tena Faust, Tyson Faust
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Penny Loyd, Paul Loyd, Sarah Beth Mathis, Jenna Green
News, shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Jan Duncan, Harry Mach, Cora Sue Mach
News, Shelby, Celebration of Champions, Oct. 2015 Sybil Roos, Betsey Garlinger

"It's like Christmas in here," I said looking across the River Oaks Country Club ballroom as the young cancer survivors giddily opened gifts from their sponsors and received the news that the outfits they were modeling on this day would be theirs to take home.

"It is Christmas," declared 16-year-old Tacey Raulerson, the young lady that my husband, Shafik Rifaat, and I would soon escort down the catwalk at the Texas Children's Cancer Center Celebration of Champions.

Tacey lost her vision to cancer at age 7. This past year, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer in her sinuses and she recently completed six months of chemotherapy and radiation. Her hair is just starting to grow back. From the beginning, Tacey and her mother have regularly made the drive from home in College Station to Texas Children's Cancer Center.

We got to know her before the luncheon as patients, their families and runway escorts gathered early for time together as well as hair and make-up styling — the latter a particular joy for Tacey, who was all over the false eyelashes.

Tacey was ready to go in her blue lace dress and fancy earrings from Dillard's. It was homecoming weekend and she would wear the dress for the Friday night activities in which she would represent her sophomore class.

Her indomitable spirit, her joy at the gift that we gave her and her glowing confidence as we climbed the stairs backstage and walked the runway touched not only my husband and I, but also everyone in the room.

Of course, Tacey was only one of 20 Texas Children's cancer survivors to participate in the fundraiser. But even as the little boys and girls and toddlers stole everyone's heart, it was Tacey who showed the audience amazing bravery and resilience in the face of a ruthless disease.

It was an SRO crowd that packed the ballroom and that cheered and clapped for the children, each escorted by community leaders. None could have been more proud on this day than Celebration of Champions founders Scott Basinger, Sidney Faust, Elsie Eckert and Judi McGee.

All four shared the joy with the participants in the pre-function room as did Lenny Matuszewski and Tamara Klosz-Bonar, who orchestrated the fashion show that included outfits from Saks Fifth Avenue for the adults.

Honored to be sharing the day with the young cancer survivors were Barbara Lowrie and Henry Brooks, Jo Lynn and Gregg Falgout, Doe and Henry Florsheim, Mary and Tony Gracely, Nancy Calles and Dr. Mark Kline, Barbara and Ulyesse LeGrange, Penny and Paul Loyd, Rahul Mehta, Alicia and Lance Smith, Tiffany and Rick Smith, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Betty and Jesse Tutor and Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff.