Fashion for a cause

Steven Corneilo, Reporter

At some point, whether by assignment or our own ambition, most of us have done some form of community service or volunteer work. However, not everybody finds a lasting purpose behind it, and only a few of us turn volunteering into a lifestyle. Naomi Skarupinski, a senior at SUNY Buffalo State, is one of those few.

Majoring in individualized studies, Skarupinski has been able to take the lessons from classes from international event design/production to create a one of a kind platform to promote social cause and change. The Vitality Fashion Show, created in 2013, is not your ordinary “high heels and high fashion” event. This fundraising fashion show donates all proceeds to UNYTS/Donate Life, a leading organization in promoting and providing in-house organ, tissue and eye procurement donations. They also run a community blood service. All of the funds are raised through Andrew’s Army, a non-profit organization that was created after twenty-year-old Andrew Accardi passed away after battling cancer for 15 years. Accardi’s heart valves were donated to UNYTS/Donate Life.

Skarupinski wanted to find a creative way of giving back by doing something that she felt passionate about. She knew Accardi personally. He was her neighbor and the son to one of her favorite high school teachers. She found inspiration through a fashion class taught by Erin Habes at Buffalo State. Through the class, Naomi had to create a project that was meaningful, and something she could add to her portfolio. Just like that, she found a platform to execute her passion and creativity to give back to the community.

After finding the right organization and aligning her purpose with a cause, she reached out to high school friends Matthew Masci and Joey Guzzo. Together they conducted models and designer calls, where they used high school students to create and model the clothing. They also created a stage crew and finalized entertainment for the fashion show. The Donate Life Club offered many volunteers. A process, which nearly took a whole semester — came to life the second week of March in 2013. The event was held at Alden High School during Donate Life Week.

For Skarupinski and so many others, this is more than just a fashion show. The event is now in its third year of production. The last two shows have been a tremendous success, as they have been able to raise over $100,000 for UNYTS through Andrew’s Army. For Skarupinski, this was a vital service that she wanted to create on her own.

“It’s about challenging yourself and learning about what life is all about,” Skarupinski said. “Finding inspiration in a time of loss is tough, but to work in positive manner and not to allow grief get the best of you is vital.”

Skarupinski has now continued to create this social change and is humbled by the amount of support she has found. The Vitality Fashion Show continues to be a volunteer service with a real cause.

You can learn more about Vitality at