Annual fashion show raises $1M for children’s medical research


There must have been magic in the room at PANDA’s 2015 “Children’s Helping Children” Fashion Show and Luncheon as the organization’s annual fundraiser reached a record-breaking $1 million goal this year.

The event took place April 25 the Phoenician Resort. Funds raised will support the PANDA Children’s Anti-Tumor Immunity Program at the Steele Children’s Research Center of the University of Arizona.

“It was nothing short of amazing, a truly inspirational and emotional day” said Jennifer Karas of Phoenix, 2015 event chair for PANDA.

“We were able to shine a bright light on the critical need for safe cancer treatments for our children and the power of medical research.”

The Women’s Board of the Steele Children’s Research Center, known affectionately as PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers), has now raised over $6 million since its founding in 1999.

This year’s event, themed “When You Wish Upon A Star,” exemplified the magic that happens when community members, donors, scientists and doctors come together to help children and their families find the critical answers they wish for.

PANDA co-founders Robyn DeBell and Penny Gunning honored the director of the Steele Children’s Research Center and the man responsible for finding most of those answers, Dr. Fayez Ghishan.

Dr. Ghishan, nicknamed their “Man of Steele,” was awarded for his 20 years of dedication to the children of the Steele Center and recognized for his nearly 50 years of groundbreaking contributions to medical research.

Ms. DeBell proclaimed that, “as a physician researcher, compassionate husband, father and grandfather, Dr. Ghishan has strived to provide comfort and cures for families and children. He is our superstar.”

“Inside this brilliant and dependable research scientist,” continued Penny Gunning, “is really just a warm, fuzzy PANDA!”

Dr. Ghishan later emphasized that research is the key to finding safe and effective answers to the complexities of cancer. While only 10 percnet of government funding for cancer research is allocated to pediatrics, children’s small, growing bodies often cannot handle the harsh cancer treatments developed for adults.

Dr. Ghishan’s unique “bench to bedside” approach to care for children and discover answers to some of their most stubborn illnesses has earned him great national praise and attention worldwide. The Steele Children’s Research Center is in the top tier of children’s research centers in the country.

Stealing the show however, were the 58 children who bravely walked the catwalk to raise money for PANDA. Wearing sunny styles from Splendid, Peek and The Garage, guests cheered them on as they swaggered through the crowd.

Some of the models were patients at the Steele Center, while others were energized by the idea of helping other children. For more information about the Steele Children’s Research Center and their new office in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, visit

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