More than a dozen years ago, Janelle and Peter Rose, owners of clothing stores Willow Tree and Chelsea Menswear & Tuxedos in Wyandotte, came up with an idea to benefit the Downriver community and also jazz up their fashion shows.
“Peter and I used to do fashion shows, and they were so boring,” Janelle Rose said. “They didn’t have music and other accompaniments. On our buying trips, we’d go to fashion shows in New York and Montreal and Vegas and Chicago that were exciting. We wanted to do that. And then we thought — you can’t just do a fashion show.”
After input from customers and friends, the Roses came up with Dress Up, Wine Down, a gala “evening out” at Crystal Gardens in Southgate to benefit rehabilitation patients.
The event includes a champagne reception, a wine tasting and strolling dinner, a professional runway fashion show featuring local celebrities and community leaders, and then a high-energy dance party complete with lighting and special effects. A silent auction is also part of the fund-raising fun.
The gala has been going strong ever since it debuted, and this year was no exception. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to support patients who need help affording medical equipment and other rehabilitation services.
“Some are underinsured and some have no insurance,” Rose said.
Chairing the event is Dr. Anne Abrahamson, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Wyandotte and a long-time Willow Tree customer. She has a practice at Great Lakes Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and also serves as medical director and chairwoman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.
Abrahamson and her husband, Nick, are among the models in the event’s fashion show. Proceeds of the gala fundraiser are dispersed to patients through the Downriver Rehabilitation Fund, a philanthropic effort of the hospital.
“We partner with a lot of different organizations throughout the Downriver area,” Rose said.
One of those organizations is Team Rehabilitation, a network of therapist-owned, inpatient physical therapy clinics with locations that include Allen Park, Southgate, Taylor and Woodhaven.
The underlying purpose of Dress Up, Wine Down became very personal for this year’s partygoers when Team Rehabilitation physical therapist Janelle Thorsrud, 36, of Grosse Ile was presented with a check for $10,000.
Thorsrud was there, in a wheelchair and struggling for words to express her surprise and gratitude. She and her husband had a baby in 2016, and a few months later, the new mother had a massive stroke causing severe brain injury. She’s been in rehabilitation ever since.
“She knew she was going to recognized as someone that shows why we do what we do,” Rose said, “but she didn’t know she’d be a recipient. It was such a moving, good thing to watch that happen right there. She is in her third year of recovery and the road has been difficult. She is why we do what we do.”
Team Rehabilitation executive Scott Delcomyn, director of the Southgate clinic where Thorsrud worked, was a model on the gala’s runway. So were WXYZ TV reporter Jenner Ann Wilson, and Judges Elizabeth DiSanto (27th District Court, Wyandotte), Jennifer Coleman Hesson (33th District Court, Woodhaven) and James Plakas (35th District Court, Plymouth), plus a host of other community leaders.
Days after the gala, Rose was still elated about its success. The event is billed as “An Enchanted Evening,” and it truly was that, she said.
“It was so great,” she said. “It was spectacular. The vibe was so amazing!”
Under Abrahamson’s leadership on the event committee are Lori McMillan, Cynthia Marion, Michelle Hotea and the Roses. And many other people help out, Rose said.
“It takes a lot of people to do an event like that,” she said.
Besides Chelsea Menswear and Willow Tree, main partners in the event are Team Rehabilitation, Great Lakes Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.
Local support also is given by Discount Drinks, Symon Rental, TJ Monte Productions and Crystal Gardens.
The event’s mission statement: “We dedicate ourselves to improving the well-being of our community family through the promotion of rehabilitation services, transforming lives through health and wellness Downriver, one person at a time.”