At Angelwood fashion show, love is in style


Katie Holtsinger was just 15 months old when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

As she grew older, her mother, Margaret, struggled to deal with Katie’s seizures and the behavior problems that escalated when she became a teenager. At one point, Katie’s behavior got so bad that the staff at the group home where she was living had to call 911.

“I believe every parent prays and dreams that their child will grow up to be a happy and productive member of the community,” Margaret Holtsinger said. “For many years, I didn’t think that was possible.”

But fortunately, the Holtsingers didn’t have to face Katie’s challenges alone. Working with the Angelwood Foundation, Katie received the one-on-one therapy and assistance she needed to progress and ultimately thrive. Now 35, Katie lives happily in her Angelwood group home and works at the Angelwood Development Center, where she enjoys painting and making jewelry for sale.

“Angelwood fills a gap for those of us challenged by someone with a disability in our family,” Holtsinger said. “Katie loves her Angelwood family, and so do I.”

The Holtsingers are not alone. They were just one of dozens of families with similar stories on hand last week to celebrate the contributions the Angelwood Foundation has made to their lives at the nonprofit’s 16th annual luncheon and fashion show. Held Aug. 12 at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Spa, the popular annual fundraiser featured a luncheon fashion show augmented by live and silent auctions, on-site shopping, prize raffles and more. In addition to a variety of silent auction experiences – including a cruise donated by Dream Vacations and a private visit to a Jaguars practice with lunch at the team training tables – the offerings included lunch with former Jaguar Jeff Lageman and a raffle drawing for an Ippolita necklace donated by Underwood’s Jewelers.

“This event has a powerful impact on all that we do throughout the year,” said Diane Tuttle, Angelwood’s executive director. “But we’re not just raising funds; we wanted to give (guests) a better picture of who we are.”

To that end, this year’s event focused on families like the Holtsingers and how Angelwood has impacted their lives. In addition to operating six group homes, the organization also offers summer camps, residential respite, adult day training programs, supported employment, behavior services and more.

“This year we are truly highlighting the stories of Angelwood,” Development Director Tera Williams said. “We wanted the community to know the stories of the people who use our services.”

Throughout the event, guests shared stories of how Angelwood had touched their lives. Board member John Wagner, for example, shared how thankful his family was that his aunt, who has Down syndrome, has lived happily for many years in one of Angelwood’s group homes.

“Angelwood has been such a blessing to our family,” he said. “My parents are in their later years, and Angelwood has helped us care for my aunt in a very loving way.”

The focus on the “angels” of Angelwood carried over to the runway, where the organization’s clients modeled fashions accompanied by friends, family, Angelwood supporters and celebrities such as teenage racing superstar Kyle Weatherman. As models made their way down the runway, guests waved and cheered, prompting shy grins and even a few dance moves from the models.

“The reason I love this show is that our clients are celebrated and put in the spotlight,” said Robin Wahby, a member of the Angelwood Board of Directors and the longtime chairman of the fashion show committee.

Wagner, who served as auctioneer during the live auction, agreed. “This is one of our very special events of the year because our clients get to model and take center stage,” he said. “But every single day of our lives, our lives are made better because there’s a staff at Angelwood who take care of the ones we love.”