Before they took the stage Saturday morning at the annual Day of Caring brunch and fashion show, the models celebrated the night before.

The Friday night models’ party is part of the tradition of the annual breast cancer awareness event, now in its 22nd year. All of the models are breast cancer survivor.

The event helps new models get to know those who have taken part before and feel like part of the group, said Paula Flesher, executive director of the Cancer Council of Ellis County.

“It’s camaraderie for the models,” she said.

Each year’s activities are different and usually center around the theme of the Day of Caring. This year, Chairwoman Donna O’Brien chose “Survive and Thrive,” and the models’ party was at Hays Medical Center’s Center for Health Improvement.

The theme sprang from a Wichita conference on cancer treatment O’Brien attended in the spring. Discussion centered around a new approach to cancer treatment, she said.

It’s common for a cancer patient to feel anxiety as their treatment plan progresses and time between checkups increases, O’Brien said.

“What they’re trying to do is change that, so they follow you from the day you’re diagnosed all the way through,” she said. “They’re working with not just the cancer treatment, but the whole experience so they start thriving.”

The theme then grew from what O’Brien knew best. Before moving to Hays, she owned a landscaping business in Nebraska.

“When thinking about the Day of Caring, they say talk about what you know best, which is gardening, plants, thriving, growing,” she said.

Having the models’ party at the CHI just seemed natural, O’Brien said.

“This is the perfect place to show we can have fun and work out together and thrive,” she said.

Carmen Winter, an exercise physiologist with CHI, said she was excited to put together a program for the 15 women. After a meal prepared by John Fitzthum, HMC executive chef, the women rotated among stations where they were led in yoga and Zumba by CHI staff, or got a chair massage by students from Fort Hays State University massage therapy students.

“Donna had some ideas, just wanting to give the ladies a variety of things to do. So we just kind of brainstormed and came up with who might be available and who could teach what and just kind of threw it together,” Winter said.

Winter also was the keynote speaker at Saturday morning’s event, where she talked about functional fitness.

“It’s what we’re here to do in the community is help people be healthy, get well and stay well,” she said.