walter neil


Ten-year-old Lily Neil enjoyed the experience of a lifetime with her siblings and dog Gracie when they walked the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo.

Karen Graninger Fashion Week El Paseo

walter neil
Lily Neil and dog Gracie lead the way down the runway at Fahsion Week El Paseo's Le ChienGracie lead the way down the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo's Le Chien show March 19 in Palm Desert.< show March 19 in Palm Desert.

Even after practicing by walking her dog, Gracie, up and down the street five times, nothing could have prepared 10-year-old Lily Neil for the lights and glitz of walking the runway at Fashion Week El Paseo’s Le Chien show March 19 in Palm Desert.

“It was so amazing,” Neil said. “I was very fortunate to be able to do that. The lights were exciting.”

Le Chien became Le Masquerade as both two-and four-legged models took to the runway wearing masks in what is always one of the most unique and family-friendly shows that benefits the Humane Society of the Desert.

Neil’s father, Walter Neil, president and CEO of Franklin Loan Center, is a sponsor of Fashion Week El Paseo. His two other children, Claire, 7, and Turner, 5, joined their older sister in escorting their yellow Labrador Retriever down the runway, or was it the other way around?

“The hardest part was being able to stay controlled behind my big dog, Gracie!” Lily admitted.

The trio still managed to keep their runway presence, waving to the packed house — Lily in her ivory dress with a princess skirt, sneakers and a masquerade mask worthy of Carnival in Venice flanked by Claire, all in bubble gum pink, and Turner, sporting a dashing tux with a lavender bow tie.

“It was fun telling my friends about it the next day, and some of them were actually there and I saw them in the audience!” Lily said.

(From left) Claire, 7, Lily, 10, and Tucker, 5, parade with Gracie, their yellow Labrador Retriever.

The experience definitely left Lily starstruck, so much so that she almost missed participating in the finale walk featuring all of the runway participants.

“I forgot about it!” Lily said, giggling. “We went and sat down on the sofa. Then they called us and out we went!”