Young Cancer Survivor Shines on Fashion Runway at the Q

November 10, 2011  |  Posted by Gina Ragone

Eli Asmar's bright blue eyes sparkle as he talks enthusiastically about his favorite basketball players and recounts their statistics from what seems like an endless knowledge of the sport.

What the 8-year-old doesn't remember, to the relief of his parents, is his battle with pediatric cancer five years ago.

At age 3, Eli was diagnosed with a very rare blood cancer that affected the bones of his skull and required several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy at Cleveland Clinic.

“We look back at that time and can’t believe the strength and courage our little 3-year-old had,” said his mother, Shereen.

For the second year in a row, Eli, a third-grader at Kinsner Elementary, participated in an event called Big Shots & Little Stars, a fashion show at the Quicken Loans Arena.

The gala event benefits Flashes of Hope and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Flashes of Hope is a national nonprofit based in Cleveland that photographs children with cancer. The images are meant to document the courage and strength of kids battling the disease and raise money for cancer research.

The runway show, in its 10th year, features Cleveland CEOs as well as players and executives from the Cavaliers, Browns and Lake Erie Monsters organizations (they’re the “Big Shots”) who walk the runway with pediatric cancer survivors (the “Little Stars”) including Eli.

Close to 1,000 people attended the gala event Tuesday, raising more than $350,000 through ticket sales and live and silent auctions.

Eli was excited about his dapper gray outfit, complete with a fedora, from The Children’s Place, that he wore on the runway alongside Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace.

While most would find walking the floor of the Q in front of a thousand people daunting, the veteran Eli, who hit the runway last year with the Cavs' Daniel Gibson, handles it in stride.

“You just walk down and walk back. I’m not nervous; it’s pretty easy,” he told Patch a few days prior to the event. That’s a good thing, considering this recreation league point guard plans to be a pro basketball player when he grows up.

His plan draws a meaningful smile from mom Shereen.

“There is a humbling resilience in all of these kids,” she said, looking at her healthy little boy sitting next to her on the sofa.

Speaking for herself, as well as for Eli’s dad Joseph and teenage sisters Liyana and Katia, she reflected, “He was really our source of strength. It’s been five years, so this event is a celebration of life for us.”

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