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Catwalk for charity

Students don’t need to bake or wash cars to help out a good cause: They can strut their stuff on the runway.

Wednesday, in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, the USF Bookstore held the first Catwalk for Miracles. The event didn’t feature Gucci, Prada or Banana Rebublic, but rather a heaping dose of Bull pride.

The Catwalk for Miracles is an extension of Dance Marathon, the nation’s largest student-run philanthropic organization, which has worked with children’s hospitals in the past.

All of the proceeds from the event went directly to the local branch of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The hospital is building a new facility to accommodate the growing number of patients it has seen over the past few years, according to

This cause is a passion of Melissa Weibley, one of the show’s coordinators and a graduate assistant at the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. She said that since both she and her brother were patients at the St. Petersburg All Children’s Hospital during their childhood, she feels a deep connection with the families of ill children.

“It’s an amazing thing when the parent of a child with a chronic illness comes up to you and says, ‘You’ve made a difference in my child’s life and because of your efforts my child will be able to get the help they need,'” Weibley said.

The event featured a runway of student models, including Jennifer Reeves, a freshman majoring in nursing.

“Participating as a model in the Catwalk for Miracles made me feel productive,” she said. “Instead of just sitting in my room, I feel like I am making a difference in the community.”

The models’ apparel, which was borrowed from the Bookstore, included hoodies, pajamas, jeweled shirts and various sports T-shirts accessorized with handbags and other items available for purchase.

The event was free to the public and attendees were given the opportunity to make a charitable donation by purchasing paper balloons from the hospital, glow-in-the-dark wristbands and raffle tickets for gift bags, all of which sold for $1 each. After the show, a silent auction was also held. Bidders could win gift baskets donated by local businesses including BJ’s Wholesale Club, Kaleisia Tea Lounge, Mary Kay, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Outback Steakhouse.

This year’s event raised more than $300 dollars for the hospital and also heightened awareness for the cause, said assistant coordinator Katherine White, a senior majoring in creative writing. She said about 200 guests attended.

The fashion show precedes the more than 13-hour main event, Dance Marathon, at which people can play games, eat and, of course, dance with only one stipulation: that they not sit down.

Weibley said the event signifies that USF students are standing for those children who can’t.

Dance Marathon takes places at more than a hundred colleges and universities throughout the country and that number has been growing exponentially since 1991, according to the organization’s Web site, Dance Marathon has been at the University since 2004 and this year’s event will be held March 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. For more information on how to volunteer, visit