For the past eight years, young girls throughout Cumberland County and the surrounding area have put their passion for dolls to work to help children who are less fortunate through the annual American Girl Fashion Show.

“It’s like labor,” said Julia Adkins, who has been a co-chair of the event for the past eight years. This year, Adkins is joined again by her fellow co-chairs, Cindy Williams and Carol Wheeler. New to the team this year are Robbie Strickland and Melissa Johnson.

“When you are in the middle of it, it’s a little rough, but then when it’s done you look back and say, ‘It wasn’t that bad.’ Let’s do it again next year. It’s really a labor of love for everyone involved,” said Adkins.

Putting the show together is a 10-month process and includes casting calls for the 140 models who will perform during the four shows at the Crown Ballroom. Many of the girls return year after year, although the show is hard work. Not only do they have to spend several days in rehearsals, they also have to raise money for the Child Advocacy Center. The goal is for each girl to raise a minimum of $100, but over the course of the year, the girls raise close to $25,000 through ticket sales and sponsorships. For the past several years, the show has netted more than $60,000, with more than $700,000 raised during its history. 

It is important to Atkins and the staff at the Child Advocacy Center that the girls who participate understand the mission of the Child Advocacy Center. The center is a place of healing and hope that brings together 19 community agencies to offer a safe and child-friendly location to interview, investigate and provide support for abused children. In fiscal year 2015, the CAC served 661 child victims of abuse. The CAC also provides prevention education for parents, professionals and agencies in the community.

With the mission of the center in mind, the American Girl Fashion Show is a unique and fitting fundraiser. The American Girl line of dolls, books and fashion provides positive historic role models for young girls. Each doll has a unique story that resonates with today’s young girls. Each year, the show adds a new Doll of the Year. This year’s doll, Liza Clarke is a proponent of wildlife conservation and protecting the rain forest. That theme carries over to the decor of the show, which will have a definite tropical rain forest feel.

Also new this year is a change in the format of the show. In the past, girls and their adult companions were treated to light refreshments. This year, attendees will have a full meal. Those who have attended in the past need not worry. Their favorites like the doll beauty salon and the hair and nail salon for girls will still be available, as will the opportunity to take portraits with their dolls. 

While many girls may have visited the American Girl Store in places like Charlotte or New York, they will be able to purchase unique items that can only be found at the fashion shows. 

If you want to delight a young girl in your life, you don’t want to wait too long to get tickets. The shows have sold out every year, and organizers do not expect this year to be any different. Shows are planned for Saturday, April 9 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and on Sunday, April 10 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $41, with VIP tickets selling for $66.

For more information, visit or call 910.486.9700. 

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