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Catwalk for charity

In 29 years, Debbie Ross has waded through countless heartache, embracing the hurt of others as her own. But this summer has been an especially hard one, riddled with loss that even a seasoned griever like herself never gets used to.

We had several funerals this summer and they just break your heart. Your heart never gets used to it, said Ross, director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Albany.

Living in the home even before it housed families and children who require an extended stay at Albany Medical Center, Ross has become like the heart of the house, captaining a large team of volunteers that keep the place pulsing, loving the families like her own and finding ways to keep the charity thriving. That means, fundraising.

On Thursday, Aug. 26, the 12th Annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Fashion Show will be held at the Rail Pavilion at Saratoga Race Course. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., fashionistas, wannabe-models or simple do-gooders can watch a high end fashion show with models and top shelf designs provided by Saratoga Trunk. There will also be a meet and greet with designers from New York City, a Silent Auction, a luncheon and dessert bar.

"This is basically a biggie for us. We look to raise about $100,000, which we normally hit," said Ross, who said RMHC's second major fundraiser is a radiothon at Crossgates Mall in January. "We're able to get that little spot on the track, which is such a gift each year especially during Travers weekend. It's mixed, so men and women both come; guys really like to do the betting and women like the fashion."

Ross brings a few RMHC kids to the fashion show every year. This time she's bringing two teenagers she calls "heroes of the day"an 18-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl who are friends battling cancer. She said it will be fun for them to see this year's new features.

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