Local Xavier Seniors Take on the Board of Visitors Fashion Show


Lily Tierney

Xavier senior Talle Donley strikes a fun pose on the runway.

On Dec. 8, 2018, the annual Board of Visitors (BOV) fashion show took place at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. BOV is Arizona’s oldest women’s charitable organization that has been raising funds for over 100 years. The funds raised by BOV support nonprofits in the greater Phoenix community that serve the healthcare needs of women, children, and the elderly. Every year, BOV hosts a Fashion Show, a Care Card and a Charity Ball to raise funds for those in need. This year it is the 65th annual fashion show. Over the years that BOV has been fundraising, the organization has raised enough money to grant over $20 million to nonprofits in the greater Phoenix community.


BOV was founded in 1908 when Arizona was a territory and Phoenix was a very small desert town, containing around 5,500 inhabitants in 1900. Around this time, The Board of Friendly Visitors started to provide assistance to those people suffering from tuberculosis, which was very prominent in the early 1900s. This small yet dedicated group of women got called upon by a man named J.W. Atwood, a Reverend who founded St. Luke’s Home to help those afflicted with tuberculosis. The members of the Board of Friendly Visitors donated time and energy to help those who were suffering and they helped in aiding the development of St. Luke’s Home. Reverend Atwood was familiar with tuberculosis. When Atwood first traveled to Arizona, he was with his wife who was ill with tuberculosis. Thinking that the dry climate would aid in her recovery, they stayed in Phoenix. Many moved to Arizona, hoping that the dry climate would increase their chances of survival. Atwood then dedicated himself to St. Luke’s Home, and, according to the to the Board of Visitors, the mission was, “healing of the sick without regard to race, creed, or station in life.”


The help that Reverend Atwood and The Board of Friendly Visitors was providing was desperately needed. Atwood started looking for a home to open to help more of those in need. In order for Atwood to open the home, he raised runs in New England. Atwood found an ally in Phoenix known as Bertrand R. Cocks, who was a young theological student. Cocks had a wife who was suffering from tuberculosis, and he was trying to find a place for her to stay. Cocks had experience with organizing a sanatorium, so he agreed to help Atwood establish St. Luke’s Home in exchange for support of himself and his sick wife. Mrs. Cocks recovered eventually and she was able to give a home to others who had the disease. Mrs. Cocks was invited to be a member of The Board of Visitors.


Reverend Atwood eventually found land for a sanatorium in Phoenix, which is today known as Polk and 18th Street. In 1908, Maie Heard and more volunteers, who were invited by Atwood, provided assistance to the home by visiting patients, writing letters for patients and bringing baked goods. Sixteen women were known as the charter members of The Board of Visitors.

Atwood continued to raise funds and in 1910, the St. Luke’s home expanded. The Board of Friendly Visitors expanded to 19 members, and Atwood was named Bishop of the Episcopal Missionary District of Arizona. In 1915, the organization is now called the Board of Visitors, and the first St. Luke’s Charity Ball was held at the original Phoenix Woman’s Club building. The first ball raised $402.71. Guests arrived by horse and buggy and BOV members provided midnight snacks which consisted of potato salad, chicken salad sandwiches, and baked ham. Many visitors moving in Arizona were invited, and the charity ball raised around $500 each year. In 1921, the ball raised around $1,000. The founding members of BOV continued to raise funds for St. Luke’s through the charity ball. The balls attendance was around 80 to 100 people.


BOV continued to volunteer and fundraise through the years of the Great Depression in the 1930s. BOV was crucial to the survival and growth of St. Luke’s Home during these years. As time progressed, the Board of Visitors launched two new events, the Irene Fashion Show and the Teen Charity Dance, to fundraise in the 1950s and 1960s. The charity ball also continued annually which was the premier social event of the BOV season. Members of BOV continued to dedicate their time to volunteer hours, and the members contributed thousands of hours helping out sick patients and supporting staff.


In 1955, high school seniors were formally invited to be St. Luke’s Flower Girls for the Charity Ball, which is where the term “flower girls” comes from. Flowers were sold to raise money for the hospital, and the high school seniors invited to the charity ball wore white ball gowns and were presented to the guests at the ball. In 1957, a booklet was created which included studio portraits of the Flower Girls which were kept as a keepsake. The invitation, presentation, and booklet of the Flower girls were now and still to this day traditions of BOV. The first annual fashion show, held at the Phoenix Country Club, was a success with over $8,000 raised.


By the mid-1960s, each year the net profits from the Charity Ball were about $30,000 to $37,000. The Fashion Show and Junior Charity Ball raised around $5,000, so the BOV contributions to St. Luke’s was around $40,000 per year. With the approach of BOV’s 75th anniversary, the organization had raised over two million dollars to benefit St. Luke’s.


As time has gone on BOV has grown and adapted. In the early 2000s, a new fundraiser known as the “Care Card” was created. For the first time in BOV’s history, the Care Card Committee solicited underwriting money from the corporate community to cover the Care Card expenses so that 100% of the proceeds from the card would go directly to the designated charity.


The Board of Visitors is still active and volunteering to this day. BOV still raises money through donations and the three main fundraising events: The Annual Charity Ball, the Fashion Show, and the Care Card. BOV is recognized for its traditions and it is known for the generations of hardworking women who have put in their time and effort for a healthier community.


There are 58 flower girls that were selected to participate in BOV this year, 40 being Xavier seniors. The 65th annual Fashion Show is a festive luncheon that brings together friends and families of the BOV Flower girls and people who support BOV and what they stand for. The Flower Girls model fashion styles from Dillards and are able to walk the runway. Other events that happen at the Fashion Show with the celebration of grandchildren of the BOV members and professional models are showcased on the runway.


For most girls who get invited into BOV, it is an honor. Since BOV is full of generations and traditions, it is very special to carry out the traditions in each person’s family. Senior Alyssa Largay stated, “Being selected as a BOV Flower Girl means that I am able to keep the tradition of being a flower girl going in my family.” Several girls have family members who have been formally invited into BOV. Senior Talle Donley expressed, “My sister was in BOV two years ago. She attended Xavier as well. Along with that, my father was an escort when he was in high school.” Once a family member is invited into BOV, there are high chances that another family member will also be asked into it. Senior Tessa Tierney stated, “My older sister, Taylor, was a Flower Girl in 2016 and she went to Xavier.” Being able to continue the traditions and generations of BOV is something that the Flower Girls hold very close to their heart. Largay stated, “My Aunt Pam was a flower girl. Also, my sister, Kristen, was a flower girl. Both my sister and my aunt attended Xavier.”


BOV has changed the lives of many people in the greater Phoenix community and is an incredible opportunity for the Flower Girls to be a part of an organization that changes so many lives. Senior Kate Shein expressed, “Being a flower girl is an honor. I am so grateful to be a part of such a great group of girls, who are supporting the community through BOV.” Not only do the three fundraising events raise money for women, elderly, and children in need, but the donations benefit others and the families of the BOV Flower girls. Donley stated, “My community is recognizing me as a leader who goes the extra mile for her peers.” Not only does Xavier College Preparatory recognize its students as students of faith and charity, but BOV also recognizes this in the Flower Girls chosen to participate in the events. Tierney voiced, “Being a Flower Girl means that I am able to help some of the vulnerable in my community and make a difference.”

The next big event for the Board of Visitors is the 104th Annual Charity Ball. The Charity Ball will take place on April 6, 2019, at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale Resort & Spa. The Charity Ball is known to be the longest running philanthropic event in Arizona. Donley states, “I am most looking forward to dancing with my father at the end of the year ball. My father and I have danced with each other since I was able to walk, and I am excited to have one last dance with him before I go off to college.” The Charity Ball is a way for the seniors to say a last goodbye to the community and the ones who surround them. Senior Trinity Cavanaugh expressed, “I am really looking forward to the BOV ball! I think it will be amazing to spend time with my family and friends.”

Photos by Lily Tierney ’19.