A Fashionable Fundraiser

Raising support on the runway

“Fashion is a great communicator,” says Leslie Patrizio, a fashion event planner and owner of Style Matters with Leslie Patrizio. “It's a wonderful vehicle to bring people together and to raise money for organizations.”

One of these organizations is Family and Children's Services, Inc. (FACS), a non-profit in Elizabeth that provides critical services such as mental health counseling, parenting classes, life skills and more. In May, FACS held its 10th Annual Red Carpet Party fundraiser at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Short Hills.

“I created this event 10 years ago,” she says. “It was right around the time of the Oscars, and I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be fun to have a red carpet party?’”

The first year, she held the party at a boutique in Millburn and invited 50 of her friends. “We did this small event in the store, and we served champagne and had friends and high school girls as models. We also did a little auction.”

The party was such a hit that Leslie decided to do it every year. “The following year, the event was held at the Short Hills Hilton, and then it outgrew that space. It was then held at the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park, but we soon outgrew that space as well.” Since then, it’s been held at either Canoe Brook or the Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park.

“We sold out last year,” says Leslie. “We sold out this year. Over 225 people attended. I bring in designers from New York but also work with local boutiques. Gowns from well-known bridal and evening wear designer, Sareh Nouri, have appeared in our fashion show numerous times. I still have local high-school girls, as well as professional models, volunteer to walk the runway.”

A big draw is having local firemen model some of the clothes. “I dress them in great outfits and then they put their firemen coats and their hats on,” she says. “As each one walks down the runway, he takes off his hat and hands it to someone in the audience, then he takes off his coat and gives that to someone else.” Along the way, the men hand out roses too.

The Red Carpet Party is also well-known for its handbag raffles. “When we started, we had one handbag and I realized how excited every woman was about winning that handbag.”

This year, they had about 35 donated handbags. Over the years, they’ve auctioned handbags from Louis Vuitton, Versace, Michael Kors and Kate Spade. There is also one extra-special handbag offered. This year it was a gorgeous Yves Saint Laurent bag; other years it's been, Chanel. Participants put tickets in the bag they want to win.

Leslie adds, “We also do a silent auction and have had everything from an Eli Manning signed football jersey to jewelry, shoes, restaurant gift certificates and golf outings.”

What really brings in the most money though are the sponsors. “The one thing to take away from this event is that people are generous, kind and thoughtful,” she says. “I have an amazing committee of friends and business associates who have become my friends. The success of this event is the giving back from the community.”

If you want to join in the fun next year, go to https://facsnj.org.

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