Fashion, fitness combine to help the kids


Fashion was the draw.
But helping kids was the inspiration.
Local fitness icon, Lori-Ann Marchese of Body Construct LLC in New Britain, was tapped as a brand ambassador for Athleta—the fitness wear retailer.
And Marchese said Athleta wanted to throw a celebration party for her at its store in the Westfarms Mall, where Bristol’s Gina Prentiss serves as assistant store manager and community relations representative.
Around the same time, however, Marchese—who starred in the BravoTV reality series “Game of Crowns”—was selected as a national coach for the Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Challenge.
Rather than just celebrate herself, Marchese said she decided to use the opportunity to draw interest to the 27 day fitness event that begins Sept. 1. And she used the event to help raise money for the CMN.
The July 18 event at the Westfarms’ Athleta featured a fashion show with Marchese’s Body Construct students wearing Athleta gear, Body Construct fitnesswear, and Children’s Miracle Network t-shirts. In addition, the fashion show included some of the children who have been helped by local CMN hospital, Connecticut Children’s Miracle Network. Among the former patients walking in the show were Southington’s Olivia Belfonti, Newington’s Rebecca Redman, and Connecticut’s Aliana Fichera.
“I feel happy people are raising awareness and money for the hospital and helping the kids,” said Olivia, who also was excited to meet Lori-Ann who she watched on “Game of Crowns.”
Rebecca also was glad to see the support for CMN at the Athleta event.
Both girls were patients of the hospital when they were younger.
Olivia was born with half a heart. Olivia said if she had gone to another hospital, she may not have lived. But she said the CMCC performs similar surgeries all the time. So, she is alive today to share her story. And, she is appreciative that Connecticut has a CMN hospital.
Rebecca’s mother, Dory, explained her daughter—who was the 2009 Connecticut Champion of the CMN— was born prematurely at 24 weeks, weighing a mere one pound, and had to spend 24 weeks in an incubator at the CCMC.
Both girls have had their hands in helping fund raisers for the CCMC.
For instance, Olivia—who was the 2012 Connecticut Champion for the CMN—held a fund raiser at her school where she and her friends raised $400 for the cardiology department at the hospital.
Rebecca said people should help the CMN because “it helps people and it save people’s lives.”
Scott Organek, the CMN director at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said, “Things like this (fashion) show are amazing,” he said. He noted that all the money raised at the fashion show and the money raised with the Miracle Challenge within Connecticut comes back to the hospital in Hartford. The show also was great because it increases awareness for the hospital, he said.
The Miracle Challenge runs from Sept. 1 to 27. And as a national coach, Lori-Ann will be creating a boot camp work out that runs 27 days, with each day featuring a different workout. Thousands of people are expected to participate in her work out.
Not only will Lori-Ann be creating a boot camp workout for participants in the challenge across the country, she is organizing her own team—which already had 15 members weeks before the challenge even begins. Lori-Ann said her goal is to raise over $8,000 between her participants in her boot camp across the country and her own team.
Staci Cross, the director of national events for CMN, said the Miracle Challenge will have five different tracks—running, walking, studio, boot camps, and classes (such as spinning). The participants are expected to exercise for 20 minutes a day for each of those 27 days, she said. And the participants are asked to raise at least $10 a day toward the Children’s Miracle Network.
If you want to participate in the Miracle Challenge, Staci said, go to Once there, if you want to participate in Lori-Ann’s boot camp challenge, look for her name. If you want to be a part of Lori-Ann’s team—even if you’re not in Connecticut—you can sign up at the website as well, said Staci.
For more information about the Miracle Challenge, go to For more information about Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, go to For more information about Lori-Ann Marchese, go to For more information about Athleta, go to
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.


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