Kids with cancer hit the runway at Tulsa charity fashion show
It was a little boy named Cody, sick with cancer and
deathly pale, who summed up the spirit behind charity work
for supermodel and Tulsa native Amber Valletta.
In a room absent of popping flashbulbs and the murmur of
high-profile celebrities, lay a child who was dying and
what he wanted was a hug from a pretty girl.
"His little face looked up at me and he smiled and opened
his arms. I had to leave the room, it was so intense," said
Valletta, recalling the moment as she readied for
Saturday's fashion show at Dillard's in Woodland Hills
"I came back and hugged him and he just hung onto me. He
even gave me his baseball picture," she said.
Last year Valletta, 24, persuaded executives from
fashion giant Elizabeth Arden to make an unprecedented move
and sponsor her pet charity, St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital, which provides free care and treatment to
children suffering from rare forms of cancer.
"Amber inspired us. She was the liaison for Elizabeth
Arden to get involved with St. Jude's," said Nancy McDonald,
public relations vice president for the company.
Together with Valletta, Elizabeth Arden simultaneously
launched the debut of their newest fragrance, Splendor,
this year and designed a program to raise money for the
hospital that has brought in $50,000. At each stop
along a five-city national tour ending in Tulsa, the
company has sponsored a unique "moment of Splendor" for St.
For Oklahoma patients, that moment came as they strutted
across the cat walk Saturday, beaming in their smartly
layered outfits, the strain of their battle lifted for a
moment as the audience cheered them on.
More than a dozen children from Tulsa are being treated
by St. Jude's and nearly 50 from Oklahoma, said Dr. Michael
Saba, vice president of international development for the
"Oklahoma has been extremely supportive and very
important to us," he said.
In addition to Valletta's work, Roy Clark hosts an
annual golf tournament for St. Jude's and Garth Brooks
visits the hospital each year.
"We've even contacted Hanson," Saba said.
When the hospital was first completed in 1962, the
survival rate for cancer was about two percent, he said.
Today there is an 81 percent cure rate for leukemia and a
60 to 70 percent cure rate for all cancers in children.
"Amber has captured the hearts of the children at St.
Jude's. She's helping to save the lives of children all
over the world," Saba said.
Valletta is no stranger to the importance of cancer
research. Her mother Theresa Malaby and grandmother Mary
Willhite are both breast cancer survivors.
Though the Washington High School graduate is involved
in many charities, not to mention glamorous activities, her
work with Elizabeth Arden's program for St. Jude's patients
has touched her in a different way, she said.
"It's a hands-on project, which is a lot more enjoyable
than sending a check in the mail," said Valletta.
Meeting and touching the courageous survivors of a
ravaging disease brings meaning to the effort, she said.
"The courage of these kids and the facilities and the
research, it's incredible," Valletta said.
"All of these kids are special. They have special little
spirits. A lot of them want to grow up to be doctors so
that they can help out. These kids will lead the world and
I think that's beautiful."
Valletta has been appointed to St. Jude's professional
advisory board and has signed on to continue her
fund-raising efforts for the next three years. In March she
plans to organize a celebrity dinner in Hollywood. All
proceeds will benefit the hospital.