Fashion show committee member and Project Runway contestant Peach Carr (second from left) with her guests sporting Peach Carr designed bags.
Throughout its history, the fashion show has raised nearly $5 million to support St. Jude, and organizers work nearly year round to ensure its success.
“It’s an enormous amount of work, it’s a year of work,” said Breit, whose family is still very involved in the operation. “There’s very little break in the action because the expectation is so high. The bar continues to go up a notch.”
The popularity of the event and the dedication of the Shaker family is the legacy of Joseph Shaker’s commitment to Danny Thomas, who was the son of Lebanese immigrants and traveled the country to meet with leaders of Syrian and Lebanese heritage to help realize his dream.
“They were all extremely impassioned by, not only the cause but by Danny Thomas,” Breit said. “He was an amazing personality and they were all so close to their homeland. It didn’t take much selling.”
The Lebanese immigrant community in Chicago was tightly knit around families, churches and social organizations. As Joseph became more involved with ALSAC and the mission of St. Jude, so did his family and friends.
I was a little girl when all this happened but I think for all us early families, it was just part of the fabric of what we talked about, what we did. We used to go door-to-door with the canisters and collect quarters. We would have a little fundraiser at our school and raise $23.
In addition to Breit’s work with the annual fashion show, several members of the Shaker and Breit families serve on the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors, and many of the third generation of supporters donated their summers to volunteer at St. Jude.
Breit's daughter, a doctor, as well as a niece who is in medical school, both completed internships at St. Jude. Breit’s youngest son is on the St. Jude Young Professional Committee in Chicago and is very involved at a local level.
“My three brothers, my sister and I were very fortunate and lucky to grow up with ALSAC in our home,” Breit said. “What we have been able to do is nothing compared to what the charity has done for us. It is our joy that our descendants are continuing on that path.”