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Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids Fights Pediatric Cancer, One Strut at a Time



“When I was in high school, all my teachers were talking about ‘What are you going to do in college?,’ ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ and, you know, that’s a loaded question when you’re just learning how to drive,” Founder of Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids (NC4K) Nellie Krumlauf said.


Yet for Eden Adams, she never got to learn how to drive. She did, however, find a way for Krumlauf to answer the questions her teachers were throwing upon her.


In 2007, as a project in her sophomore year of high school, Krumlauf wanted to hold a one-time fashion show to raise money for cancer. The inspiration came from happy memories she had with her grandma who died of lung cancer.


“My grandma and I, before she had cancer, we would put on these fun, silly fashion shows in her living room. I would put her jewelry on and her shoes that didn’t fit me … and I really wanted to bring that back. I wanted to remember my grandma for the happy times and not the times she had cancer,” Krumlauf said.


Instead of having the proceeds of Krumlauf’s first fashion show go to the cancer that affected her family, Krumlauf wanted to take on a cancer that needed the most help. After doing some research, Krumlauf discovered that pediatric cancer was the least funded cancer out there.


After a venue was donated to the cause and Krumlauf found a DJ and models, she was soon connected with seven-year-old Adams, a sufferer of Neuroblastoma. Krumlauf said, “I asked her dad if he would be willing to have her in the show … and he eventually said, ‘Yes, I think my daughter would love this. She is such a girly girl.’ And I told him, ‘We’ll pay for everything, we just want her to have a good time.’”


The show was a success, raising a hefty amount for the oncology department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Yet, the real success lay in after-catwalk happiness.


Krumlauf said, “Eden came up to me after the show and her eyes are just so big and she has so much energy and she’s like, ‘This is so fun. I can’t wait till next year’ and I couldn’t look at her and break her heart and say, ‘I’m sorry Eden, this is it.’”


Krumlauf decided she wouldn’t let Eden down and thus she held a second show the following year, and a third one the next. “So, I started planning the third fashion show, still kept in contact with Eden’s family and they were really private at the time and I didn’t want to cross that line. I get a call one night when I was at work and all the words that I remember from that conversation were ‘Eden didn’t make it,’” Krumlauf said. “Being at her funeral was a million times harder than being at my grandma’s funeral just because of the years she lost from her life.”


But again, Eden inspired Krumlauf to make a further big change within NC4K. “I made another promise to her that day. I said, ‘you know what, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life I want to help these kids day in and day out and we’re going to have fun doing it.’ And that’s when we got really very serious,” Krumlauf said. “So, as I’m packing for college, I’m filling out legal documents to become a 501(c)(3), developing a board, getting an office for us and really taking us to the next level.”


Though officially making NC4K a nonprofit organization was hard work, finding people to help has never been a problem. In fact, Krumlauf said there aren’t nearly enough models needed for how many people there are interested in strutting down the catwalk for cancer.


Anyone can model for the NC4K annual fashion show though models typically range from children to high-schoolers. The only thing NC4K asks of its models is to fundraise. However, cancer patients are allowed to model without doing any fundraising.


Having models who do and don’t have cancer allows kids with cancer to forget their illnesses and feel ordinary — a surprisingly welcomed feeling for many of the NC4K kids.


“It gets a great mixture, it introduces fundraising to  the next generation and gives them an opportunity to give back and also our cancer families. They just want to feel like a normal family. So, this is a great blend to make them feel just like an everyday kid or teen,” Krumlauf said.


Each year, the annual NC4K fashion show is held in the late summer, with a theme to tie in an array of catwalk clothing. Rather than going through the hassle of finding stores to lend clothes, models buy their own outfits that they can wear off of the catwalk for days to come.


On Saturday, July 26, NC4K held its 2014 fashion show, themed scarlet and gray at none other than OSU’s Ohio Union. The show was preceded by a ‘tailgate,’ where fashionistas could enjoy snacks and chatter before sitting down for the main event.


After seven years,  NC4K has raised more than one million dollars. Since becoming its own 501(c)(3) organization, NC4K has branched off from Nationwide and has put its funds to good use in creative ways.


“We do a Catwalk 2 Go which is a mobile clothing closet for cancer patients and then every month we review financial requests from families and those can be the gas cards, the grocery cards, the utility bills and we work with families and that’s a very private but sensitive topic,” Krumlauf said.


Such yearlong activity requires that Krumlauf devote her entire career to NC4K — and it all happened because of one girly girl who enjoyed herself on the catwalk seven years ago and a passionate high school student who wanted to change the world.


To find out about upcoming events visit their website here.



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