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Fashion show benefits cancer retreat nonprofit
'Warrior Models' help raise funds to help families
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Sue Sigmon-Nosach listens to speakers Thursday during Thumbs Up Mission’s Dressed to Kill Cancer luncheon and fashion show at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville. Sigmon-Nosach is a 13-year survivor of ovarian cancer. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Cancer fighters can be beautiful.

Every “Warrior Model” that sashayed down the runway at the first Dressed to Kill Cancer fashion show heard they were beautiful.

Before each woman began their walk, a video played with each woman’s tales of victories and some losses to cancer.

The show, held Thursday afternoon at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville, benefited the Thumbs Up Mission organization’s retreats.

“It exists to help hardworking families … given a diagnosis no one wants,” volunteer Marybeth Cook said.

Founder Miles Coker explained to the audience of 402 that the nonprofit sends families affected by cancer on a retreat every year. It costs $2,500 to send one family.

“They are able to lay down their burdens,” Cook said.

Most families who go want to come back as volunteers. Oncology manager and nurse Victoria Thompson sent some of her patients on the retreat and has been a repeat volunteering visitor herself.

“It has really changed (their) lives. It gives (them) such hope that they’re not the only ones going through this,” Thompson said.

Age is just a number with Thumbs Up. It doesn’t matter which family member has cancer, which sets it apart, Cook said.

All models, which included people of all ages like Debbie Davis, Bonnie Dillashaw, Tracey Curtin, Ashlee Keys, Terri Smiley, Amber Strickland, sisters Deann Watson and Sonia Watson, and mother and daughter Anna Lee Weber and Lynn Weber, have all had cancer or are close to someone who has.

Brecklynn Allgood and her dad Zach Allgood planned to attend as models, but couldn’t make it due to the return of 4-year-old Brecklynn’s cancer.

Models Deann Watson, mother of Clemson quarterback and “Hometown Hero” Deshaun Watson, and Sonia Watson, aunt of Deshaun, enjoy going to the retreats so much they want to give back in a big way.

Both went with their families to the retreat last year. This year, the retreat will be named Thumbs Up Watson Family Retreat in honor of them.

In their video, they described Deshaun’s strength and courage during their recoveries and how they prayed together during their battle.

Davis and Dillashaw also found strength through faith.

“I knew God was always with me,” Davis said.

Dillashaw thought of her cancer as a rock. She could throw it into a river and try to control its course, by skipping it across or throwing it as far as she could. Or she could give it to God and let him take control, she said.

“All of us have a destiny,” Dillashaw said.

We are also given gifts by God, she said, and hers came with Thumbs Up.

“I felt like it was a big present given to me from God,” she said.