University of Central Missouri: UCM Students’ Bra Couture KC Creations Help Raise Money for Cancer Patients

University of Central Missouri students in two academic programs combined their efforts to help individuals raise more than $525,000 to assist cancer patients during the annual Bra Couture KC charity auction. One student’s creation fetched a whopping $10,000 from a bidder who wanted to support this charitable program to help Kansas Citians in need of financial assistance.

UCM has participated in this event multiple times over the past nine years with support from students in the Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Education (FCSE) and Fashion and Apparel Merchandising programs (FAME). With the mantra, “It’s not about the bra,” the 10th annual fundraising event took place on April 22 in partnership with the University of Kansas Cancer Center in an effort to help raise money in support of patients who are uninsured or underinsured.

Students who participated in the event were Jackie Almaraz, Rhiannon James, Tory Long, Jamie Moreno, Lauren Ragland, and Lyndsey Roseler from the FCSE program. Also taking part were Lindsey Dobson, Melody Torres Jordan and Melany Gomez from the FAME program. Krystle Gremaud, Ed.D., assistant professor and coordinator of the FCSE program, and Melissa Abner, Ph.D., associate professor and program coordinator for FAME, provided faculty advisement to student participants.

Volunteer driven, Bra Couture KC annually takes place at the Kansas City Downtown Airport and sells out to about 1,500 patrons. It features a silent auction and a VIP event, and is highlighted by a famous survivor show and auction in which men and women cancer survivors take to the runway, joined by players and ambassadors from various Kansas City professional sports organizations. They stroll down the runway wearing one-of-a-kind costumes designed by KC area artists around the bra, which serves as a symbol of survival.

Expressing her creativity the bra that was made by Long, a UCM student from Pleasant Hill, was worn by one of the runway models. It received a $10,000 bid, which was the highest sum offered for one of the UCM students’ creations. The bras that were not worn on the runway were sold in a silent auction to raise additional funds.

“I was actually able to be there for this event so I was able to watch the auction live and in person. Seeing my work go down the runway was so thrilling,” Long said. “So many hands went up so fast that it almost made my head spin. Listening to the number grow bigger and bigger was so amazing, I definitely cried. After seeing my garment raise $10,000 I had to leave for the night but the joy and excitement that I felt stayed with me all the way home. “

Faculty members who are engaged in the program view it as a valuable opportunity to learn and to provide a service to others. It is a way for students to contribute to a cause that many of them may relate to, particularly if they, their friends, family or acquaintances have been affected by cancer.

“We were happy to have multiple students again this year,” Abner said, noting that Fashion students had the opportunity to work on the bras in their Clothing Construction II class. Some students, however, worked on their own “because they felt connected to the cause.”

Similarly, Gremaud said, “FCSE students have the option to work on this as part of a class project. Most of them end up choosing this project over the other options. Next year, our student organization will use this event for their service learning project as well.”

Both faculty members appreciate the opportunity to get involved themselves and to join their students for this important cause.

“We are really proud to be part of such a nicely put together event that directly supports cancer patients in the KC area. Students who have created and volunteered in the past usually do so because they have a family member impacted by cancer,” added Abner, who also had the opportunity to connect with event founder and cancer survivor, Sharon Payne. “I loved being at the event with the student volunteers this year; all of the students had a great time and thought it was a wonderful experience.”

Gremaud, who has attended in past years, realizes how important Bra Couture KC is to UCM students who get involved. Their service continues to touch her heart as an educator and program supporter.

“I love watching the expressions of our students as they see firsthand how much their efforts really do matter in this event,” she said. “Every year you have students who don’t think their design is ‘good enough’ but then they see it eloquently displayed and get to see what it auctions off for and they become so emotional as they realize what a difference they just made. It’s my favorite part of the event. The students always make me proud to be their advisor.”

Long will said it meant a lot to her to be part of this project. It is likely not going to be the last time she attends Bra Couture KC.

“There are so many people out there who are diagnosed with cancer every day and then not only do they struggle with fear of having cancer, they also have to come up with ways to pay for everything. Being able to use my skills in a unique way to help out was honestly eye opening for me,” Long noted. “I am so ready to see what next year holds for all of those who decide who enter a bra into the event and hope that they see the amazing purpose of the project.”

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