The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Chi Omega fashion show makes wishes come true

Louise Flournoy was one of several models at Chi Omegas Fashion With a Passion show. BROOKS POWELL/The Daily Campus
Louise Flournoy was one of several models at Chi Omega’s Fashion With a Passion show. BROOKS POWELL/The Daily Campus

Louise Flournoy was one of several models at Chi Omega’s Fashion With a Passion show. BROOKS POWELL/The Daily Campus

A year ago, 14-year-old Louise Flournoy and her mother Nina, a corporate communications and public affairs professor at SMU, were in the midst of two battles: Louise was fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood cancer, while her mother sought support from the university to take a leave of absence to care for her ailing daughter.

News of Louise’s diagnosis came in July 2008 while Nina and her husband Craig Flournoy, an SMU journalism professor, were teaching summer courses in London. With the help of family and friends, the couple returned home quickly to attend to their daughter’s medical care.

It quickly became apparent that Nina would need to take a sabbatical from teaching to focus on Louise, which was met with opposition by administrators in the Meadows School of the Arts. However, an outpouring of support through letters and personal notes to Dean José Bowen secured Flournoy’s leave, facilitating Louise’s care around the clock.

The Flournoys’ struggle was well known across campus at that time, but was nowhere more enthusiastically undertaken than in the SMU Chi Omega house.

Within a few months of learning about Louise’s diagnosis, the Chi Omegas devoted all of the revenue from their annual philanthropic fashion show, “Fashion with a Passion,” to fund a wish trip for Louise and her family through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas.

The Irving-based non-profit is part of a larger national charity organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Despite the excitement of learning she would receive a wish, Louise was so seriously ill at the time that her mother feared she might not see her wish come true.

Now a 15-year-old high school freshman, Louise is back from her wish, a trip with her family to the beach in Florida, however, she faces her second year of chemotherapy. Although she continues to fight leukemia, her mother said the worst is behind her.

To pay forward the generosity of the Chi Omegas, Louise and her twin sister Emma graced the runway to help raise money Oct. 29, at the fifth-annual “Fashion with a Passion” event in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center ballroom. Proceeds again benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Louise’s mother considers it a “victory lap.”

“Sitting in the audience this year, watching Louise strut down the runway, I had to pinch myself,” Nina wrote in an e-mail interview.

Chi Omega Philanthropy Chair Vicki Owen said she estimates the event included more than 200 students, parents, faculty and staff. Final counts on the proceeds have yet to be tallied, but Owen said the totals will top $5,000.

Eleven-year-old Tatum Null, draped in a purple and black checkered pashmina, kicked off the event by telling her wish story, including a trip to Disney World, one of Make-A-Wish’s most popular requests according to Erin Michel, interim vice-president of development for Make-A-Wish of North Texas.

Being a wish kid is “pretty amazing,” Null said. “It kind of stinks though because you know that the only reason you are a wish kid is because you’re very sick.”

Null said that before she was told she would receive a wish, the stresses of her treatment were draining. However, hearing she would receive a wish gave her something to look forward to through the ordeal of surgeries and prolonged hospital stays.

Members of Chi Omega and several wish children walked the runway sporting clothing and accessories from fashion plates Stanley Korshak and Barney’s New York, as well as Dallas boutiques Melanie Gayle and Calypso.

Chi Omega Sisterhood Chair Emily Lauren Epstein said the event is a great way for first-year women to check out the latest looks for spring recruitment.

Epstein, a senior CCPA major, is especially devoted to Make-A-Wish and similar charities since her older sister, now 24, was diagnosed with lymphoma just before she left for college.

“As someone who personally experienced what it’s like to have a family member who’s ill, I obviously feel very personally connected to the cause,” Epstein said.

Since its founding in 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted the wishes of more than 185,000 children, roughly one every 40 minutes, according to the non-profit’s Web site. This August, the North Texas chapter celebrated granting its 4,000th wish, Erin Michel said.

Michel, an SMU Chi Omega alumna, said she has attended several previous years’ events and was very impressed by the efforts this year, especially in a down economy.

“I think what made [the event] different this year is the fact that a wish that they actually sponsored – Louise’s wish – that she was on the runway workin’ it,” Michel said.

Owen, the event’s chief organizer, said she was honored to have those who had received a wish participate this year, adding special praise for Louise.

“[She] is an optimistic, bright, fun young woman and she worked the runway … with confidence, poise and spirit,” she said.

Reflecting on the importance of the event to SMU as a whole, Owen said she recognizes that cancer affects everyone in some way.

“It always feels great knowing that your hard work is going to benefit a really wonderful cause, but there is an extra special feeling that accompanies knowing that your work is helping someone that has a special connection to our SMU community,” Owen said.

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