A dozen young people with Southeast Arkansas ties and four designers from Lifetime Television’s hit reality show “Project Runway” were among those who recently participated in a Hot Springs fashion show benefiting The FACES Foundation.
“The FACES Foundation, founded by Dr. Daron Praetzel of Hot Springs, provides no-cost surgeries to those in need of facial surgeries due to birth defects, accidents, and war wounds,” said Chad McGriff, FACES executive director. “In turn, the foundation asks those individuals, family, friends, and community to give back to non-profits in Arkansas in a ‘Pay It Forward’ manner through sweat equity.”
McGriff, a former Monticello resident and University of Arkansas at Monticello alum, was hired in March as the executive director of the organization. His main objective was to quickly establish an annual fundraiser that would benefit the foundation and build funds to provide surgeries to those in need.
“I sat down and looked at what other organizations in central Arkansas were doing,” McGriff said. “I wanted to bring something to Hot Springs and Arkansas that hasn’t been done. With that, the FACES of Fashion Show, A Night with Project Runway, was established, and from there all efforts were put into planning and executing the event in just four months. Typically, organizations have a full year or more to plan their annual event, but we needed to hit the ground running and so I called in all hands on deck.”
McGriff called on all of his connections, mostly personal friends, to lend a hand.
“I scrolled through my cell phone and made a list, hit up my Facebook, and started sending messages asking for help,” McGriff said.
Although The FACES Foundation is headquartered and located in Hot Springs, McGriff recruited everyone he could, and being from Southeast Arkansas most of those volunteers were friends from the south.
The job descriptions for his friends ranged from modeling to catering.
Jayce Gray and Krisi Ballentine served as official spokesmodels for the Expo and the event.
Gray and Ballentine, both 1999 graduates of Monticello High School and graduates of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, visited sponsors for photo-ops, modeled clothing from local boutiques during the Expo, and walked the runway during the fashion show. Gray was also selected as the official ‘Designer Pick’ for the runway show.
Jayce Gray’s husband, Ted Gray, who graduated from Monticello High School with McGriff in 1996, was along just for the trip but as soon as he arrived McGriff put him to work. He was in charge of hotel and backstage coordination.
Holli Hopkins Wood, another 1996 Monticello High School graduate and owner of Couture Cupcakes of Monticello, provided 300 cupcakes for the Expo, volunteer staff, and the hospitality suites. “Holli makes the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted,” McGriff said. “So, I called her and said, ‘girl I need a bunch’ and she said, ‘you got it.'”
Misty Head Moxley, yet another 1996 Monticello High School graduate, and Brad Baggett, a 2008 graduate of Rison High School and the son of former Monticello Junior High School football coach Kent Baggett and former Monticello Junior High School teacher Annette Baggett, served as VIP/Hospitality managers and assistant show directors.
Vanessa Miles Wurtz, a 1999 graduate of McGehee High School, served as the back- of-the-house and models manager. “Vanessa has experience in handling tough fashion situations from her former position with AY Magazine in Little Rock,” McGriff said. “I knew that if we had an emergency, she would remain calm and handle it for me.”
Tee Jay McKenzie, a 1994 graduate of Crossett High School and 1997 graduate of UAM, is vice president of The FACES Foundation and was the sponsorship and auction coordinator for the event.
McKenzie also served with Whitney Jeffress Hunter, a 1994 graduate of Crossett High School and daughter of former State Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, as the host committee and meet & greet committee.
Kristin Hollis Winn, a 1992 graduate of Crossett High School, photographed the event and her daughter Jacey, Miss Frisco Springs Outstanding Teen, served as Expo model and walked the runway.
Kristina Levi Thomas, a 1995 graduate of Monticello High School, served as official photographer for the expo, the meet & greet, and the show. Thomas’ daughter, Lauren Weaver, Miss Sebastian County, was an Expo model and an official “Designer’s Choice” runway model.
More than 300 attended the fashion show and more than 150 attended the Expo.
“We would have never pulled off this event without the help of my friends and my connections in Southeast Arkansas,” McGriff said. “This was truly an event about community, and I couldn’t ask for a better community of people.”
Plans are now underway for next year’s event, which will include two shows, one in Hot Springs on September 19 and another in Little Rock on September 20.
“The event was such a success we added another date and city,” McGriff said. “And, instead of bringing four designers we will be featuring eight designers and their full fashion lines.”