Sweet 'chair-ity:' Pink Aid design event at Mitchells bolsters cancer fight
Pink chairs designed and decorated by professional architects and home decor experts were hard to miss Wednesday as they sat on display on the sales floor of Mitchells of Westport, as well as at the foot of the runway for a special fashion show.
Eyes were drawn to their unusual designs and the bright, bold shades of pink that their creators used to call attention to the plight of women battling breast cancer, especially those in Fairfield County who are uninsured or underinsured.
The pink chairs were auctioned to raise money for Norwalk Hospital's Smilow Family Breast Health Center and St. Vincent's Swim Across the Sound to support those women. The auction was part of the inaugural Pink Aid Luncheon and Fashion Show.
Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, founder of the Pink Aid Foundation and vice president of marketing and creative services for the Mitchell Family of Stores, told an audience of more than 400 people, mostly women, that he came up with the idea of the foundation after he was thanked by a woman who benefited from previous fundraising efforts.
"The money we raised had bought her a wig. She told me that when she went through chemotherapy and lost her hair her daughter was frightened and wouldn't hug her," Mitchell-Namdar said.
Breast cancer survivor Robin Roberts, the Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of the television program, "Good Morning America," was scheduled as the guest speaker for the inaugural event, but a news assignment prevented her from traveling to Westport on Wednesday. She was replaced at the last minute by ABC News colleague Deborah Roberts, a correspondent for the "20/20" news magazine show.
Via a pre-taped message that was played for the audience, Robert Roberts said her heart goes out to all those women going through what she experienced but without the kind of support she had.
In her remarks, Deborah Roberts shared with the audience her own recent breast cancer scare. During a mammogram, Roberts said her doctor found something that needed further examination. She spent several tense days waiting for results, which came back Tuesday. It was "clean," she said.
Several of the pink chair designers attended the event.
Linherr Hollingsworth, of Hollingsworth Design Associates, said she doesn't usually design with such bold colors as the bright pink she used in the chair, but enjoyed the project because the pink represents "the bold spirit that is within all those women (battling breast cancer) to survive, to keep going on."
Hollingsworth said she loves classic and modern styles so her chair marries the two. "It's a classic chair with a modern twist," she said.
Looking at a chair designed by Elissa Grayer, of Elissa Grayer Interior Design, Sherry Fogel said, "I love this chair, the color, the pattern, the old world style of the chair with the modern fabric."
"It also looks very comfortable," added Fogel's friend Susan Preminger.
Kelly Healy of Wilton, a three-year breast cancer survivor, said she was fond of the chair created by Sheridan Interiors of Wilton, because it reminded her of the pink ribbon which has come to represent breast cancer awareness. Healy, who attended the event with her daughter Caitlin, 14, modeled in the fashion show.
Skye Kirby, a designer for Lillian August, who created one of the pink chairs, said she agrees with Mitchell-Namdar, that no woman should have to go through the experience alone.
"I think there is nothing stronger than the power of women when they get behind something. This cause is great," said Kirby, who chose a wood framed chair and added a modern patterned fabric in hot pink and white.
"Kasia Karska, an architect from New Jersey, created along with her friend Ellen Reinkraut, a whimsical chair that featured a number of lucky charms including pennies, wishing bones, a protective eye, and horse shoe. She called it a magical wishing chair.
"I think life is about focus, intention and positive attitude. There's not a better wish than to be healthy," she said.
Several women paid extra to sit in about a half dozen of the pink chairs that were positioned at the foot of the runway, creating the front row. The show featured professional models and local breast cancer survivors wearing fashions from Escada's Fall 2011 collection, which is available at the Mitchell Family of Stores.
"The design community has embraced this beyond belief," said Amy McMillan Tambini, advertising director for Cottage & Gardens Publications and the inspiration behind the pink chairs exhibit and auction. Tambini said they already have a waiting list of designers for next year's fund-raiser.
Although no final figure was available immediately after the event, Mitchell-Namdar said he suspects the Pink Aid Foundation raised about $250,000 Wednesday.