81-year-old to walk the runway for Gemma


The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation will present the 2012 “Our Heroes” annual Survivor Fashion Show this Saturday, May 12 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston.

One of those heroes is first-time runway model, 81-year-old Alice Bastien of Lincoln.

Bastien faces health challenges of her own, but has been a rock for loved ones who have faced cancer firsthand. Three of her six children were diagnosed with cancer in very short succession, ensuring an emotional trip down the Gemma catwalk.

“I can’t promise there won’t be tears. I’d do anything for the Gloria Gemma Foundation. They’re like my family. Even if I have to be in a wheelchair, I’ll be there,” Bastien said.

She will be one of 20 models appearing in the event; 15 are breast cancer survivors and five are mothers of survivors who are being honored in a respectful nod to Mother’s Day, which takes place the following day.

Bastien says she can’t wait to take her place in the spotlight in honor of her children and the many others who continue to fight cancer.

“It’s a real honor and I sure am ready for my runway debut,” she said. “I’m going to be the bell of the ball.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. with a vendor marketplace, including event sponsor Alex and Ani, and the show begins at 7. This year marks the fifth “Our Heroes” Fashion Show, held every May to celebrate the spirit and beauty of breast cancer survivors and their hero escorts (loved ones, doctors, military personnel and emergency response professionals). Audience members will be treated to fashions provided by Botticelli of North Providence, Sonya’s of Cranston and Off Broadway Shoes of Warwick.

The evening is one of hope for the men and women who have battled breast cancer.

“Breast cancer does not discriminate,” said breast cancer survivor Carol Ann Donnelly, one of the event’s organizers. “That’s the theme of this year’s show. Breast cancer doesn’t care about race, gender, height, weight or age.”

Bastien’s family proves that, and she clearly has a great deal of affection for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation team.

“Alice is somebody, I think, who has gone through a very difficult time over the past few years. It hasn’t been an easy road for Alice’s family,” said Maria Gemma, executive director of the Foundation. “We’re here when women are going through those tough times.”

Bastien’s tough times include two daughters and one son who have faced cancer in the last four years alone. Bastien first met Maria Gemma four years ago when her daughter, Donna, was diagnosed with two separate stage IV cancers, breast and lung. With the accompanying surgeries and treatments, Donna’s sickness was hard enough for the Bastien family to deal with.

“We thought that the Bastien family had really cleared a hurdle,” said Gemma.

But since Donna’s initial 2008 diagnosis, Alice’s daughter Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and her son Richard was diagnosed this year with prostate cancer.

“Alice deserves a night of celebration,” said Gemma. “This is long overdue.”

Bastien, according to Gemma, is probably drawing the biggest crowd to the “Our Heroes” event. Her children, family members and friends have already reserved five tables.

“My son said that boys don’t go to fashion shows,” Bastien quipped. “But I told him about the food and he agreed to be there.”

Bastien’s association with the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation has been a source of comfort and support as she continues to deal with illness in her family.

“Something bad like this always comes with something good,” said Bastien, turning to Gemma and adding, “I think about you every day. I mean that sincerely from the bottom of my heart. You’re the greatest. Whenever I need you, you’re there for us.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” said Gemma.

Guests at Our Heroes will be treated to a variety of international food offerings and Irish step and salsa dancers and, of course, a one-of-a-kind fashion show.

Individual tickets are $42 each. A table for 10 people can be reserved for $400 and corporate sponsorship packages begin at $500. To purchase tickets, or to become a vendor or sponsor, call 401-861-HOPE (4376). Proceeds benefit the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.


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