On Sunday, April 6, the children of St. Mary's Services were truly shining on the runway during the adoption agency's first children's fashion show in decades.
Children as young as 2 months and as old as 14 years were wearing fashions of their own choosing and prancing down the runway as only kids can.
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Pop music from Fantastic DJs provided a backdrop, and host Janet Davies told a special story about each child. A festive venue and food by Cotillion Banquets in Palatine rounded out the festivities.
It was also an opportunity to raise money for St. Mary's new teen pregnancy education initiative. About 250 people were in attendance at the fundraiser.
"Events like this one with our adopted children are my favorite," said Joanne Bratta, executive director of St. Mary's Services. "It brings so many of our families together and lets them reconnect and share stories and see how the kids are growing. Talking about our educational initiative was almost an afterthought."
The event featured a silent auction, live auction, raffles and door prizes. A special prize was given to every participating child, and a photo booth was fun for the whole family. Much was won or given out, but the event also raised important seed money to continue the mission of St. Mary's Services, which for more than 127 years has been "Every Child Deserves a Good Home."
"We were so proud to be part of such a happy event," said Eileen Hadfield, mother of 7-year-old Kayla Hadfield, whom she and her husband, Christopher, adopted in 2007 through St. Mary's Services.
"We can never thank St. Mary's enough for not only our beautiful daughter Kayla, but all three of our children. It is because of their wonderful and caring staff that we are a family."
St. Mary's Services, founded in 1887, is the oldest adoption agency in Illinois. It is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization serving all of Illinois from its base in Arlington Heights.
"We have a rich heritage at St. Mary's of counseling and supporting pregnant women, whether they choose adoption or not," Bratta says. "And when they do, we help them all the way through the adoption process and beyond.
"Our focus is on building relationships between all members of the adoption triad -- birth mother, child and adopting parents -- and we really counsel all sides, but especially the birthparents, on how to navigate this time in their lives."
All proceeds from the fashion show are going to educate young women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, especially as part of St. Mary's new educational initiative.
Founded in 1887 by the Episcopal Sisters of St. Mary, the agency's dedicated social workers counsel women experiencing unplanned pregnancies who are considering adoption. They also provide preparation and placement services to families pursuing domestic infant adoption.
In addition, St. Mary's facilitates home study and post placement services for international adoptions. The agency helps both birth and adoptive families before, during and after placement.
For more information, visit www.stmaryservices.com or call (847) 870-8181.