Francesca Dabecco just wrapped up a whirlwind few days in Los Angeles taking in the sights at Fashion Week.
She sat in the front row at several runway shows, guest blogged for Glamour magazine, mingled with top designers and received stylish swag to spruce up her wardrobe.
She's not a movie star or a designer or even a style journalist with a major fashion publication -- the few who ever get such opportunities. At 17, she's a Make-A-Wish recipient from Robinson with a passion for fashion who experienced things she describes as "Christmas morning times a million."
The Montour High School senior enjoys writing about fashion and thinks she might want to work for a magazine someday. But she had to put some of those interests on hold when she was diagnosed in May with a brain stem tumor. Because of its delicate position, conducting a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous or having surgery to remove it was too dangerous. She received 30 radiation treatments over six weeks, and now the tumor has shrunk by at least 80 percent.
Her mom referred her to Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Children with a life-threatening medical condition who are between the ages of 2 1/2 and 18 at the time of referral are eligible for wishes, which fall into four categories: I wish to be (such as spending the day with someone of a certain occupation), I wish to go (vacation requests), I wish to meet (being introduced to a celebrity), and I wish to have (a shopping spree, a puppy or a swimming pool, for example). Last fiscal year, the chapter granted more than 700 wishes.
"In my case, I did all this and more," Francesca says. "I had extreme troubles figuring out what my wish was going to be."
At first, she considered wanting to be an intern for a day at a fashion magazine in New York, until the chance to attend Los Angeles Fashion Week came about.
"I've known about Make-A-Wish for a really long time," says Erin Whitaker, public relations director for Style Fashion Week, L.A. Fashion Week's equivalent of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. "I wanted to be able to offer our platform to them."
Some highlights of her week were attending a pre-Fashion Week party with industry insiders, meeting Rachel Zoe and taking a tour of her studio and getting her hair and makeup styled before heading to events, including by a stylist with Pittsburgh roots. Her parents and sister also got to accompany her on the trip.
Before their travels, Francesca received pieces from some fashion brands based in Pittsburgh, including Kiya Tomlin Pittsburgh, EMY MACK shoes and Sandra Cadavid and Sabika accessories, so she'd be red-carpet ready.
"I am so thankful to have had a little bit of Pittsburgh with me while in L.A.," Francesca says.
Even though her wish is complete, all the people who helped make it possible won't be forgotten. Francesca would like to be a volunteer for Make-A-Wish or Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where she received treatment, she says. Before her trip, she was involved with a benefit auction for Make-A-Wish at Latitude 40 in North Fayette with Froggy Radio and raised more than $9,200 -- enough to grant a couple of wishes.
"I'm chasing normality," she says. "I know I will never be as normal as I used to be, but I found the good in that as well."
For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG.