Runway for a Cure

Photograph Taken by: R.Stenberg


On Tuesday, October 21st, 2014, the Providence Biltmore Hotel will host the 6th annual Lupus Runway for a Cure fashion show and silent auction. The event begins at 6:30 pm with a cocktail reception, followed by the main event. The proceeds will go to the Lupus Foundation New England, an organization whose mission is “To educate and support people with lupus, promote awareness and fund scientific research that will lead to better treatments and ultimately a cure.”


Aida Patricia Crosson is the founder and coordinator of Lupus Runway for a Cure. As of this writing, she is a deputy secretary of state for Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis – though with elections fast approaching, she will likely be taking on a different role soon. Crosson started Lupus Runway for a Cure after living with a diagnosis of lupus for close to 16 years. Crosson saw a lack of awareness about lupus in Rhode Island, and in it, an opportunity to build a sense of community and hope for those quietly suffering through the effects of the disease.


Crosson was diagnosed with Lupus 21 years ago. Her early symptoms included unusual fatigue and joint pain. After a period of inconclusive diagnoses, Crosson received the information that would change her life. “Finally, I think I talked to the fourth doctor, I was told that – I have Lupus.” The news was confusing and difficult to process. “It was hard. When I was first told I had it, I had no idea what it was, number one,” Crosson says. “And number two, the people around me didn’t know what it was, because it was a disease that you didn’t hear much of. People didn’t talk about it. There wasn’t a lot of literature on it, and everything you read was depressing.”


“Lupus is a deficiency in your immune system,” explains Crosson. “So pretty much what it is, is your body is allergic to itself. It’s a battle within yourself. It doesn’t recognize any viruses, so if you get a cold, you’ll have it for six months.” There is no cure for lupus erythematosus, and each case of the disease manifests in an individualized way, reacting to medications and treatments uniquely as well. “That’s also what makes it so hard to find a cure – every case is different,” Crosson says. Symptoms can include fatigue, loss of hair, fever, mouth sores, joint pain, kidney failure, skin rash and jaundice. Lupus symptoms can come and go without apparent cause. It often leaves no visible signs of illness, and these factors can make the disease difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with it.



After a long period of living with lupus, Crosson had an idea for a way to foster awareness and positive energy, and raise funds for lupus education and research. “Runway for a Cure was… this vision that I had to bring awareness, and start educating people on the disease,” she says. A former runway model who retired because of her illness, Crosson started making phone calls to see if models and clothiers would donate time and outfits to the cause. Things went surprisingly well. “It was so easy. Everything came,” Crosson says. Able to quickly secure a venue, models and clothing, Crosson decided to roll with the momentum and include a silent auction within the event. The initial target for the first Lupus Runway for a Cure auction was $5,000. It ended up raising $20,000 – and a good deal of awareness as well.



Photograph provided by Aida Patricia Crosson




Lupus Runway for a Cure has been growing steadily ever since. Crosson is happy with the burgeoning of the event, and not just in terms of funds raised. “In the room that [inaugural] night, there were two of us with lupus,” she recalls. “Last year at the event, there were over 15 people with lupus in the room.” Crosson says the energy of the event is a thing to savor. “The people who have lupus can feel beautiful for one night… [You] see people celebrating what they have. You need to celebrate what you have. You have to accept what you have and you have to celebrate it and live with it.”



Crosson was also very enthused to see positive energy spreading outward from her event. “Somebody with lupus took the initiative and said ‘You know what, I want to make a difference too. What do I do?’” Crosson recalls. “And I was like ‘you need to do a walk.’ And he took it, and now, we have the walk the first weekend in June, and we just celebrated our third year.” As for Lupus Runway for a Cure, Crosson approaches the event’s continued success with something like giddy trepidation. “In a way it was easy for me to put it together because of my background,” she says. “But every day I see it grow and it’s kinda scary because you go ‘Oh my gosh, where is this going to go?’ But it’s a good scary.”

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Written By: David Sano









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