In 2012, the Foundation also began to focus on breast cancer awareness and education for women of color. Bates, herself a seven-year breast cancer survivor, committed to raise half a million dollars to endow the Barbara Bates Foundation Breast Wellness Center at Sinai Health System. To date the BBF has raised more than $515K toward that effort and construction is underway for the Center. Sinai Urban Health Institute has documented that Black women in Chicago are 48% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women. Speaking at the donation ceremony, Sinai's President Karen Teitelbaum said of Bates, "Your gift to Sinai Health System speaks to your dedication, compassion and grit, and of course, hope."
Since beginning her fashion empire in 1986, the self-taught, Chicago-based fashion designer has become a dynamic leader in the fashion industry. Bates Designs has dressed some of the world's most recognizable fashionistas, entertainers, celebrity clients, community leaders and influential figures, including Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey and Whitney Houston. In 1984, she began selling her clothes during her lunch breaks while working as a secretary. Two years later, an investment of $5,000 from a generous client allowed Bates to go into the fashion business full time. Initially, she began with a small staff, consisting of a husband-and-wife sewing team, who churned out her designs just as quickly as she could dream them. In 1988, she opened a 700-square foot showroom, today Bates oversees a diverse staff in a sprawling design studio in Chicago's South Loop.
"Fashion has been my life's work, but it has given so much more", says Bates. "Fashion has changed the lives of our city's young people, and provided needed education to women struggling with breast cancer, just like I was seven years ago. This year's 30th Anniversary celebration is about what can be done when a vision is backed up by hard work, not just mine, but all the people who have supported me over my 30-year career."
This year's "Knocking Out Breast Cancer" runway event will serve two purposes, highlighting Bates Designs 30 years of fashion excellence, and raising funds for the Foundation's charities. Co-Chaired by Spencer Leak, Jr., of Leak & Son Funeral Homes and Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, the show will feature both runway and breast cancer survivor models. The event will be emceed by Robin Robinson, departmental spokesperson for the office of Superintendent Eddie Johnson of the Chicago Police Department.
Visit "Knocking Out Breast Cancer" for more information, and to purchase tickets.
ABOUT THE BARBARA BATES FOUNDATION
Founded in 1999, the Barbara Bates Foundation is a philanthropic organization with a mission to raise funds for educating African American and Latino women on the early detection and treatment of breast cancer and to provide formal wear donations to inner-city high school students with difficult circumstances. www.barbarabatesfoundation.org
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SOURCE Barbara Bates Foundation