School’s fashion show, fundraiser shows a lot of heart

Look in your closet, way in the back. Chances are, you won’t wear that elegant prom dress, pretty bridesmaid gown or slinky cocktail number ever again.

You have the memories of it, and maybe pictures. Do you still need or want the fancy dress?

It’s clear-the-clutter season. How nice it would be to find a new home for that gently used formal. And how much nicer if your gift of a dress served a much greater good?

Donations of fancy dresses are needed for a fund-raising event Jan. 18 at Meadowdale High School. Proceeds from the “Take This Dress to Heart” fashion show and dress sale will support a free heart screening for students. The screening is scheduled for Feb. 12 at the Lynnwood school.

“We’re doing this in memory of Matthew Truax,” said Darla Varrenti, executive director of the Nick of Time Foundation. The foundation’s mission is preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children and young adults. Holding community heart screenings for kids and providing defibrillators to schools are among the foundation’s goals.

Meadowdale High School, where cheerleaders from several schools will model the donated dresses, is still grieving for one of its own.

Matthew Truax, a junior at Meadowdale, was five days shy of his 17th birthday when he died Sept. 13 of a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He was running the mile in PE class when he collapsed that day.

Sandra Wright, the organizer of “Take This Dress to Heart,” is a friend of Matthew’s mother, Melinda Truax. “My daughter was in Matthew’s class at school. And my older daughter dated his older brother,” said Wright, who lives in Edmonds.

“This really is about having awareness out there. Kids need to get their hearts screened in their teen years. And there are AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) in a lot of different places, but people don’t know they’re there, or are afraid to use them,” Wright said. “Changing that can be lifesaving.”

Dr. Jonathan Drezner is a professor at the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine, and past president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Interviewed by The Herald’s Sharon Salyer in November, Drezner said he estimated that “100 to 200 young competitive athletes suffer sudden cardiac death each year.” He said sudden cardiac arrest most often strikes between the ages of 12 and 30, and that males are about four times more likely than females to be affected.

“We don’t want other families to have this happen to them,” said Varrenti, the Nick of Time Foundation’s founder.

The Seattle area woman knows the Truax family’s heartbreak. It’s been almost a decade since her 16-year-old son Nick Varrenti died of sudden cardiac arrest. A former student at Heatherwood Middle School and Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Nick was a high school football player in Mars, Penn., when he died Sept. 6, 2004.

The foundation was started in Nick’s honor by Varrenti and her sister, Suzanne Apodaca. “It really has been amazing how much support we have gotten from the community,” Varrenti said Friday. At Meadowdale Feb. 12, the group expects to “hit the 10,000 mark,” she said, meaning that number of young people will have been screened with electrocardiogram equipment since the foundation’s start.

About 500 students are expected to be screened at the event. It’s free, but donations are welcome, Wright said. “No kid has to pay. And if a heart problem is found, Children’s Hospital will take care of them,” she said.

First, those dresses will be on display. Girls aren’t the only ones involved.

“A lot of boys are volunteering,” Varrenti said. “Escorting the models will be boys who played on Matthew’s soccer team.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Dress event for

heart screenings

Take This Dress to Heart,” a fashion show and sale of gently used formal dresses, will be held noon-5 p.m. Jan. 18 at Meadowdale High School, 6002 168th Street SW, Lynnwood. It’s a fund-raiser for a heart screening event at the school Feb. 12. Tickets to the noon-1 p.m. fashion show are $5; the 1-5 p.m. dress sale is free. Information: www.takethisdresstoheart.org

To donate a dress, call 206-816-4447 or email sandrakwright@live.com. Dresses, needed by Jan. 12, may be delivered to Meadowdale High School’s main office.

A free heart screening, supported by the Nick of Time Foundation, is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 12 and is open to students ages 14-24. Registration required. Meadowdale students may sign up at school; others may register online at: http://nickoftimefoundation.org/screening/

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