By Jackie Stone
The Cove Herald
There was some nervousness backstage, but all 12 of the models who turned out Saturday night made it onto the "runway" at the annual Womanless Fashion Show in support of child abuse victim advocates.
The fashion show wasn't so much about admiring the outfits as it was about the cause - and the models.
The models raised more than $3,500 Saturday night at the Copperas Cove Civic Center. They collected donations from the crowd in their handbags before turning them over to be tallied at the back of the room.
All the money raised - from the evening's donations as well as $10 ticket sales and other donations - will go to the Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas, a nonprofit organization that works with entities such as Child Protective Services and law enforcement agencies in Bell and Coryell counties to advocate for child victims of abuse.
While the audience waited outside for the doors to open, backstage friends and family members instructed the bedecked and bedazzled models on the finer points of feminine dress.
"I don't know how you women do this every day," Walmart employee Don Beam said, as his wife Louise carefully applied white eyeshadow to her husband's eyelids.
Louise Beam said she was surprised when her husband agreed to model.
"I don't make this a hobby," Don agreed. "I was (hesitant), until they told me what the cause was for."
Several of the models repeated the sentiment.
Copperas Cove High School Principal Rick Kirkpatrick said the cause was worth swallowing his pride for, but he nervously cooled his heels under a wide-brimmed purple hat as he waited for his turn on the runway.
"If there was a back door here, I might use it," he said.
But once his name was called, Kirkpatrick joined the enthusiastic models as they wove through the tables set up at the civic center to collect donations.
A "queen" of the night was crowned based on the amount of money each model was able to raise from the crowd.
Last year's winner, Ida from Levita (also known as Les Ledger, professor of business administration at Central Texas College), served as the master of ceremonies.
"I've removed myself from competition; it wasn't fair," Ledger said.
Ledger has participated in the show for several years.
"Anything you can do to help children is worth it, even making a fool out of yourself," he said.
Many in the audience, as well as the models, had close ties to the advocacy center and its work.
Bonnie Wilson, whose husband, Bill, strutted the room in a bright blue gown, said as a CPS officer, she has seen the impact the donations have whenever she brings a child to the center.
One of the services the money supports is the rainbow room at the center, a place Wilson said she can get gifts, clothing and basic needs for any child victim of abuse who needs it.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Central Texas serves as a neutral site for law enforcement personnel, advocates, civil servants and non-offending family members who are involved in the aftermath of a child abuse case.
CAC employs trained interviewers who conduct interviews with children after a case of abuse is brought forward in order to limit the number of times a child has to retell the story.
Federal and state grants fund a little more than half of the center's budget, but the rest comes from community donations and fundraisers like the fashion show, said Michelle Farrell, director of the center.
Carol Rogers, a member and past president of the advocacy center's board, waited at the back of the civic center Saturday night counting donations as they came in. Rogers said each year she worries that the money won't come in and is always surprised by the generosity that comes from the fun and lively event.
"It's funny because you think we're not going to make any money, but when they run out of green stuff, they start writing checks," she said.
Rogers organizes the event each year along with Copperas Cove police Detective Lori Hix, Kim Walker from the Fort Hood Unit CPS and Copperas Cove resident Doris Gilray.
CPS supervisor Walker, who is in her fourth year of helping to organize the event, said she thinks the reason the event is a hit - in addition to the good cause - is the cheap, family-friendly entertainment.
Walker said the models come from all walks of life, and have in the past included military police, police officers, local businessmen and members of biker groups. While some return year after year, others show up unexpectedly.
When the Knuckledraggers motorcycle group found out the event could be low on models, three members showed up at the door Saturday night with dresses and wigs ready to take the stage.
"It's really just whoever hears about it and has the nerve to put on a dress," Walker said.
Cove Councilman Willie Goode said last year several councilmen attended the show, but didn't participate.
"It was so much fun, but they only had like four guys dress out. So I got out in front of the audience and challenged the other city council members to join me this year," Goode said.
On Saturday night, Goode - stage name Ruby LaRue - pulled on a red dress and wig in order to raise the funds along with two of his fellow councilmen, Danny Palmer, also known as the bearded lady, and Chuck Downard, dressed as Ms. Abby from "NCIS."
"If it's for the kids, we'll do it," Goode said, adding as he flipped his hair, "I'm gorgeous. I'm gonna win this thing."
Contact Jackie Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcoveeditor.