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Pitt teen hosts Show of Styles, Kids with Smiles

Carissa Dean hosts the Show of Styles Kids with Smiles Spring Fashion Show to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital on May 11 at the Hilton Vancouver. - Collleen Flanagan/The News
Carissa Dean hosts the Show of Styles Kids with Smiles Spring Fashion Show to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital on May 11 at the Hilton Vancouver.
— image credit: Collleen Flanagan/The News

B.C. Children’s Hospital has been life changing for Carrisa Dean.

She suffered a hairline fracture in her spine after a bad fall while playing Grade 9 basketball at Pitt Meadows secondary. In diagnosing the cause of her pain, doctors also found that her spine had irregular curves at both the top and bottom.

As she aged, it started causing her problems.

Dean was a model from the age of 10, but health problems have held her back.

She was expected to grow to 5’9”, but she stopped growing at 5’5”, then actually started to shrink.

The scoliosis caused her a lot of pain, as her curved spine pinched nerves.

“I would practise [basketball] one day, and then be done for the next three.”

Some children who are diagnosed with scoliosis are able to correct the problem with a brace, but Dean was past the growth stage where that would be a viable treatment.

Other skeletal problems emerged.

“My hips were out of whack. It got pretty severe for a while,” said the Pitt Meadows resident.

Her hips and back would pop out of joint.

In hospital, she met someone else with scoliosis who had been successfully treated with surgery. She met a second girl who had surgery, and became paralyzed because of a resulting infection.

“So, for me, it was not an option.”

Children’s Hospital offered her both treatment, and inspiration.

“It’s an eye-opening experience,” she said. “I realized how little my [health problem] was in comparison to how sick some of these kids are.”

Dean, now 19, tried yoga, and so far it has been the best solution.

“It’s been helping a ton,” she said. “That’s my new passion – I go five days a week.”

It is possible to reverse scoliosis, and that’s her goal. If not, Dean is thankful for what she has.

“I’ve got it better than some. I can do most things – it’s just pain management.”

Show of Styles, Kids with Smiles was both a fashion show and a way for her to give back to the hospital.

The Children’s Hospital patients are her models, and they love it.

“I get them all glammed up for the day.”

The first show was in April 2011.

“It was the most amazing experience I’ve had. The kids – their personalities are amazing. They have nothing to lose.

“They get this superstar attitude. By the third outfit they’re walking like they own the runway.”

She remembers a shy three-year-old whose dad held his hand for the first two trips down the catwalk, but on the third trip he insisted on going himself – like the big kids.

“I want to support their recovery and build them up.”

As she became more familiar with the work being done at Children’s, by the staff and the many volunteers, she learned about everything that is still needed, from equipment to children’s toys, and remembers thinking “this hospital should be stacked with stuff for these kids.”

And so she helps in her own, unique way.

She took a year off last year to focus on school, but after completing her first year studying communications at Simon Fraser University, she is bringing it back on May 11 at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown. Tickets are $20. For more information about the event, email her at carrisa.d@hotmail.com.

In the first event, she had a goal of raising $5,000 and overshot by bringing in $7,000. Her goal for the second event is $7,500.

Cherie Spence works for the hospital with independent community fundraisers, from bake sales to gala dinner/dance events. She said the events raise $700,000 per year for the hospital.

“So it’s pretty significant for us, and we do rely on people in the community raising funds for us.”

She said the first Show of Styles, Kids with Smiles is a great event, and the hospital appreciates the effort that Dean puts into planning the logistics.

For ticket information visit: secure.bcchf.ca/SuperheroPages/main.cfm?Member=29165&Event=ICE

 

 

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