Retired Marine colonel, Navy commander and others bringing awareness to cancer by strutting on runway for good cause

CORONA, California (KABC) – Since 2008, the Survivor Strut fashion show has helped raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The fundraiser is the brainchild of Dianne Callahan, who survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma three times.

“I wanted to do something to raise money, but also to raise the mood and make it a celebration that we’re still here, we’re still alive,” said Callahan.

She credits LLS for helping save her life, thanks to funding the organization has provided to researchers.

“I am so grateful and blessed to have survived cancer three times and owe my life to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” said Callahan. “So it’s all about making sure they have the money they need to fund the research that will help other people survive too.”

In the past, the affluent fashion show was held in front of a live audience. But last year, COVID-19 canceled the show. This year, Callahan came up with the idea of ​​hosting it virtually, thanks to the Tommy Day Jr. Foundation and the Day Family Classic Cars Museum in Corona.

The fashion show will show 20 men, women and children, all cancer survivors, along the rows of shiny classic cars. Fundraisers such as Survivor Strut have played a key role in funding cancer research and patient services.

“We hope we will find a cure and we don’t have to do this. We will have to celebrate it in a different way,” said retired Navy Commander Melody Paulsen, who has survived breast cancer.

Paulsen was one of the volunteers modeling outfits along with fellow surviving retired Marine Col. Sean Magee.

“I just said, ‘Hey, I have this fight and I have to do my best to fight this thing and survive,’ said Magee, who deserved it for giving him the mindset to fight back against B-cell lymphoma.

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The fashion show will also spotlight young cancer patients, such as 13-year-old Maddy Leonard and Nicole Evans, a 17-year-old survivor of acute lymphocytic leukemia.

“It’s incredible to see statistically with the numbers how much the number of survivors has increased,” Evans said.

Currently, LLS is laying the groundwork for a global precision medicine master’s thesis that will test multiple targeted therapies at up to 200 clinical sites around the world.

“I think after about 10 or 15 years what can be achieved through research to save more lives,” said Jill Leonard, Maddy’s mother.

Survivor Strut will be streaming on May 16. If you would like to learn more about the event or become a sponsor, please visit:

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