A week before her senior year of high school, Rachael Murray ’17 was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She resolved right then and there to wage war against not only her own disease, but against the illness itself, and she fought with fashion.
Murray was named Girl of the Year in 2013 by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), which meant she was the face of the organization’s fundraising campaign that year. Over the course of several months, Murray planned and produced #trendingforfashion, a fashion show fundraiser for the Upstate New York/ Vermont chapter of the LLS, all while trying to balance high school, family, and her illness.
“I was busy. I was very busy. But it was something I wanted to do,” she said. “There were times I didn’t feel good, so I couldn’t go to every event [put on by the LLS], but when I was feeling good, I absolutely loved it.”
Usually Girl of the Year is just a title, but Murray wanted to do more, and the fashion show came together almost as if by design. She had had a conversation with a boutique owner in Albany, New York, on an otherwise unremarkable shopping trip, and in speaking with the owner, Murray’s illness came up. “She was so touched, she broke down crying and said, ‘That’s so inspirational. If there’s anything I can ever do to help, please let me know.’ I didn’t even know this woman,” Murray said.
Fast forward a few months: Murray is brainstorming ideas for her event, and this woman pops into her mind. Before long, Murray had a venue, a lineup of models, and clothing donated by the benevolent boutique owner. The show raked in $10,000. After such a successful inaugural event, she decided to make it an annual occurrence and has raised a total of $25,000 for the LLS.
Adversity has put Murray’s life into perspective. “I was a typical high school senior, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. But getting up and talking in front of people as part of the campaign and organizing the fashion show prompted me to start looking into communications.” Murray chose Ithaca College for the Roy H. Park School of Communications’ reputation and entered as a communication management and design major. She has since been working hard to develop the necessary skills to pursue her passion, wherever it takes her. “I don’t know how I’m going to decide what I want to do because I like it all!”
Plans for next year’s fashion show are already under way, and Murray hopes to continue organizing the fundraiser for years to come.
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