Interview with Elyse Walker: Founder of Pink Party

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. People around the globe are involved in efforts to raise money for this cause – and one we especially love is the pink party®, founded by Elyse Walker. 

Elyse has raised over $6 million dollars through her annual pink party®to support Dr. Beth Y. Karlan, MD and Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.  She is passionate and committed to celebrating life as well as finding a cure for cancer.  

Her passion for finding a cure stems from a personal experience: “My mom is my inspiration,” she says. “She was diagnosed terminally ill with stage IV ovarian cancer when she was just 40 years old. She was the most amazing woman and is the reason why I am in fashion today.”

Unfortunately, Elyse’s mom didn’t have the benefits available now, “In 2005, I founded the pink party® in honor of my mother who never had the chance to benefit from early detection or any of the numerous new therapies being tested today. I hope that, through the pink party®, we can continue to take steps towards ensuring that no one has to lose a mother, sister, daughter or friend to cancer.”

The $6 million raised through pink party® have been a huge contribution, and the women who have attended are gushing with their feedback, “I will never forget the time when I ran into a young lady that had previously attended the second annual pink party®. She told me that she never ever had so much fun at a fundraiser, she was literally dancing the night away, having the time of her life.”

That’s not all.  Elyse shares that because of the event, this young lady took action. “She told me that she was long overdue for her mammogram, and because of pink party® she called her doctor and scheduled a checkup. The event has a call-to-action for women and cancer, and seeing this fulfilled in one of many stories is truly rewarding. I hope most of the women leave the party with the same intentions.”

Every year, there are memorable moments that inspire attendees.  Because everyone has some sort of tie to cancer, pink party® can be emotional for everyone.  Along with dancing and having a lot of fun, the focus remains on finding a cure for cancer.

“In our third annual event, we had one of our attendees get up on a riser and explain to everyone that she flew all the way across the country to attend the pink party®. Everyone was intrigued by the beautiful 35 year-old who shouted from the riser, ‘Do you want to know why I would fly 3000 miles to come to the pink party?’ She took off her beautiful long, blond wig and was completely bald. Everyone stopped breathing because no one would have thought she was even sick let alone undergoing Chemotherapy treatment. Her name is Dee Dee Ricks. She is still battling breast cancer today and is a huge advocate for women’s cancer research and awareness.”

The pink party® also involves a fashion show put on by top designers, who love contributing to the event. “Everyone that participates in the event is always so happy contribute and be involved, because they have been affected by cancer and want to give back. The fashion show is a perfect way for designers to use their brand for a good cause.

This year’s fashion show features Barbara Bui, Brunello Cucinelli, Chloé, J Mendel, KaufmanFranco, Kelly Wearstler, Stella McCartney and Valentino. “It allows the designers to use the event as a platform to express that they want to make a difference and eradicate cancer as a threat to women.”

With a fashion show, dancing, and everyone all dressed up, it would seem like there would be difficulty in focusing on the main purpose of the event.  To stay focused on her purpose, Elyse lives each day to the fullest, and treats the pink party® as just another day at the office in order to stay focused on the goal.

She says, “I wake up every morning and try to make each day a party. It’s our motto on the selling floor of Elyse Walker, so I see the pink party® as just another fabulous day to celebrate women, fashion and friendship. Also, the event continues to be a crowd-pleaser each year thanks to an amazing and committed team behind the scenes.”

With so many fundraisers for cancer research, it is often a struggle to strike the right chord with the appropriate crowd.  In order to get her philanthropic event to the top of everyone’s Go To list, she  makes sure guests are treated to the best possible entertainment and prizes.

“In addition to an extraordinary philanthropy, our event continues to be one of the most fun events in Hollywood. People dance on the tables, we auction designer handbags and live auction cars and amazing vacations! We try to keep the event very consistent each year: Think – drink – dance – dress PINK is our motto! Our event is a celebration of life and we try to do it in style.”

Want to support this great cause? You can purchase exclusive pink party® items (proceeds benefit Cedars-Sinai and their research) at Elyse Walker’s store in Pacific Palisades and online at forwardbyelysewalker.com

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