Glamour for a cause: Fall Fashion Preview to benefit children’s advocacy center Emma’s House

By RUSS LAWRENCE for the Ravalli Republic

There’s nothing glamorous about the work that Emma’s House does, but a glamorous event next Saturday, Sept. 14, is set to benefit the local nonprofit.

The children’s advocacy center, housed in a cozy Hamilton Victorian, provides services for abused and neglected children, and conducts forensic interviews to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in convicting abusers.

To help child victims of crimes get past the trauma, they offer counseling visits and well-child checkups as part of their menu of services. For many years now, those services have been supported, in part, by the Fall Fashion Preview fundraiser, hosted by Bella Boutique.

This year’s Fall Fashion Preview will take place at the First Interstate Center at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. Tickets are $25 per person, including a prime rib dinner, and are available at Bella Boutique in downtown Hamilton.

This is the 10th annual Fall Fashion Preview, and attendees are invited — but not required — to dress in vintage styles, in “a tribute to the roots of modern fashion.” Bella co-owners Mary Marsh and Claire Kemp advised that their definition of “vintage” is very inclusive.

“Models” from Bella will be joined on the runway by others from Ford’s Federated and Bob Ward & Sons, showing off the latest styles, including a few vintage-inspired outfits, along with accessories provided by Robbins on Main. The models are generally customers recruited by each store, who volunteer for the runway duty.

The event includes an opportunity to stock your closet with “gently-used clothing,” as Bella Boutique has been soliciting its customers to bring in items they no longer wear, for sale at the fundraiser. The evening will also include a silent auction, and a live auction featuring some unique items with strong appeal to the men in the audience.

A local dog breeder has offered two AKC registered puppies for auction, one a male Golden Lab which will be eight weeks old on the day of the event, and the other a Yorkshire Terrier male. Emma’s House Director Valerie Widmer claims the pups are so cute she’ll probably have to leave the room to avoid bidding on them.

Other significant items include a scenic flight that includes a stop at the remote Moose Creek landing strip for a gourmet breakfast; a night at the Downing Mountain Lodge; a “Cosmos” party, with appetizers, for eight; a Peruvian dinner to be prepared by the Emma’s House board of directors; a year’s worth of shoes — a pair a month — from Bella Boutique; and more.

Entertainment for the evening ranges from the relatively sedate string quartet that will greet people on arrival, to a lively tap-dance routine by local instructor Natalie Naidl and her charismatic, talented son Max, and closing with the rowdy Man Dance routine courtesy of the Groovz studio.

This is the biggest annual fundraiser for Emma’s House, said Widmer, supporting their services to Ravalli County child victims. Most of their work necessarily takes place out of the public eye and is designed to protect the clients’ anonymity, so Widmer will present a short video that provides a glimpse of what they do, and how they help children, and entire families, to heal after such trauma.

The fashion show itself will consist of three interludes with models filing down the runway, along with a brief description of the apparel and where it can be purchased locally.

Bella began the event 10 years ago as a modest fundraiser, and it became associated with Emma’s House four years ago. A trial had just concluded, in which Emma’s House played a role in obtaining a conviction, impressing Kemp and Marsh.

“I walked in the store later that day, and it all came together,” Widmer recalled. The young organization needed to establish an annual fundraising event, and the Fall Fashion Preview was something to which the community already looked forward each year. It has since grown to the point that they had to move it to the larger venue at the fairgrounds, which will accommodate up to 325 guests.

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