Retired Marine colonel, others bringing awareness to cancer by strutting on runway for good cause

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Since 2008, the Survivor Strut fashion show has helped raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The fundraiser is the brainchild of three time non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor Dianne Callahan.

"I wanted to do something to raise money but also raise spirits and make it a celebration of the fact that we are still here, we are still alive," said Callahan.

She credits LLS with helping to save her life, thanks to the funding the organization provided to researchers.

"I am so grateful and blessed to be a three time cancer survivor and I owe my life to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society," said Callahan. "So, it is all about making sure that they have the money they need to fund the research that will help other people survive as well."

In the past, the well-heeled fashion show has been held in front of a live audience. But last year, COVID-19 canceled the show. This year, Callahan came up with the idea to host it virtually, thanks to the Tommy Day Jr. Foundation and Day Family Classic Cars Museum in Corona.

The fashion show will feature 20 men, women and children all cancer survivors, strutting down the rows of shiny classic cars. Fundraisers like Survivor Strut have played a key role in helping to fund cancer research and patient services.

"Our hope is that we will find a cure and we don't have to do this. We'll have to celebrate some other way," said retired Navy Commander Melody Paulsen, who is a breast cancer survivor.

Paulsen was among the volunteers modeling outfits along with fellow survivor retired Marine Col. Sean Magee.

"I just said, 'Hey I got this fight and I got to do my best to try to fight this thing and survive," said Magee, who credited his service for giving him the mindset to battle back against B cell Lymphoma.

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The fashion show will also highlight young cancer survivors like 13-year-old Maddy Leonard and Nicole Evans, a 17-year survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

"It is incredible to see statistically with the numbers how much the survivor rate has increased as well," said Evans.

Currently, LLS is setting the groundwork for a global precision medicine master clinical trial that will test multiple targeted therapies at up to 200 clinical sites worldwide.

"I think about 10 years or 15 years down the road what can be accomplished through research to save more lives," said Jill Leonard, Maddy's mom.

Survivor Strut will stream on May 16. If you are interested in learning more about the event or becoming a sponsor, visit:
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