There was a distinct military presence at the fashion show produced last month by students from the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg.
During the showing of its final collection, models took to the runway escorted by Marines, wearing their dress uniforms for the occasion and coming from Great Lakes Naval Base.
Students called their show "Prism" to reflect its theme of going from darkness into light.
The event took place at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows and drew 1,000 high school students to the afternoon show and another 700 to the evening gala.
That kind of record turnout yielded their highest proceeds ever -- more than $18,000 -- which after much deliberation, students donated to Salute Inc., which is based in Palatine and provides emergency assistance to returning veterans.
"We felt that what they do for veterans fit with our theme," said Kira Lenzi of Schaumburg, who helped with the marketing of the show.
The Marines were on hand for the check presentation, as was Amanda Beets of Rockford, a member of the National Guard reserves, who suffered a stroke after returning from her overseas duties.
"This was more than a school project," said fashion marketing teacher Marci Watkins. "This was real life. This event changed someone's life."
Some of the proceeds from the fashion show will be used to purchase an adaptive bicycle for Beets, in an effort to help restore some of her movement and independence, said Salute Executive Director Mary Beth Beiersdorf.
In thanking the students, Beiersdorf said they get requests for assistance from military families every day, but they also draw groups from the community who step up to help them meet those needs.
"The success over the years for Salute has been due to what you just did," Beiersdorf said. "We've been lucky enough to have received an outpouring of community support over the years.
"As you go on," Beiersdorf added to the students, "don't forget about us."
Students said the impact of meeting one of the veterans suddenly made the project more important than showcasing fashions.
"Just knowing Amanda made us work harder," said Danielle Guevarra, a student from Carpentersville. "We knew her story and it was so heartwarming."
Her classmate, Kelly Sullivan of Inverness, agreed.
"This really hit home for us," Sullivan said. "Every one of us knows someone who has served in the military. It was very emotional, but that's what drove us."
Students met last week at the college's Schaumburg campus for a postproduction meeting, to review the event and its success.
This was the fourth annual fashion show and it drew students from the fashion department to work in marketing, production, merchandising and staging, as well as in the designing of the collections and working with the models.
It also drew students from the digital filmmaking class, video production, audio production and digital photography to help mount the show.
"This is our one main live event we do each year," said Jeremy Schulz, who teaches video and digital filmmaking, "and it's totally student run."