||Kim Meton wore her wedding dress in the fashion show. Mary Jo Klamm helps adjust her veil before the show begins. (Catholic Herald photos/Sue Klamer Barry) To view or purchase photos from this event go to: madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com
JANESVILLE -- At first glance, the preparations didn’t look all that unusual. A fashion show was about to go on and it looked as if it were all about the runway, the latest fashions, and the glitz and glamour of debuting stars and stage.
But, after taking a closer look and talking to some of the participants and helpers in this production, it became apparent this wasn’t your ordinary fashion show.
This was the third annual Rock County Recreation Program’s Fashion Show for the Disabled, which hosted program participants for a night of fashion, fun, and friendship.
The Fashion Show allows persons with developmental disabilities (such as mental retardation, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or traumatic brain injury) to act as runway models and encourages activities that promote the growth of self-esteem in the models themselves.
The event was held on September 9 at KANDU in Janesville. The main purpose of the event is to raise awareness of a disabled person’s intrinsic dignity while allowing the models to take great pride in their abilities — not their disabilities.
There were over 20 fashion show models in three categories: sportswear, casual wear, and formal wear. The participants were pampered and assisted by area hairstylists and make-up consultants to help get them ready for their walk across stage.
Old Navy of Janesville provided some clothing and accessories for the event and some of the models were assisted by caretakers and family members to put together their fashions.
Volunteers were also in house to escort the participants to the runway and to help them polish their walks down the runway by practicing with them before the show.
One such escort, Megan Lavigne, a senior at Parkview High School in Orfordville, said after the event that this was her first time helping with the fashion show, but she started volunteering with the disabled earlier this year and she loves it.
“I have an autistic brother who is three years older than me and when he was in high school, kids would make fun of him. I learned a lot about autism because of my brother and I wanted to find a way to help him and others with disabilities,” she said.
“I found Pat (Poffenberger) with Rock County Recreation and starting volunteering. It has been a lot of fun. When I told friends at school that I was helping with the fashion show, a friend asked if she could help, too. I said, ‘the more the merrier.’”
Lavigne said she has learned a lot by working with the disabled. “It is cool how different people with autism respond and act. There are different levels of functioning with the disability of autism. It is great to see how much all of the disabled participants enjoy seeing everyone cheer them on.”
She plans to go into a career such as physical therapy or as a special education teacher.
Before the fashion show began, Catholic Charities employee and program coordinator Jodie Klamm presented a video featuring interviews with many of the fashion show participants. They were asked to tell what excited them about the show and to say what activities they enjoyed.
Most every little girl wants at some point in her life to be a princess or to be a star. Not only did the Fashion Show allow the participants to realize that dream, but also to be made to feel special and important by sharing a few highlights of their personal lives with the audience through the video interviews.
It was a heartwarming prelude to the show to hear the models say what activities they enjoyed such as bowling, getting together with friends, and/or watching a movie. The audience was also entertained with piano playing by Jacob Platkowski, brother of Jodie Klamm.
Many local businesses also provided gift certificates and cash for door prizes.
Following the fashion show, the models mingled with family and friends to enjoy cake and refreshments.
The bonds of friendship and love were overflowing in the room and it truly was a night with the stars . . . not only for the models themselves, but with the caring and devotion shown by caretakers and loving family members and volunteers. It will be a memorable event for all of the participants.
The event was funded by Rock County Developmental Disabilities Board, ARC of Rock County, North Rock County United Way, and Stateline United Way.
The Rock County Recreation Program assists individuals with developmental disabilities in meeting their social, leisure, and recreational needs. Other annual activities include holiday caroling, Zumba classes, evening social dances, talent shows, martial arts classes, bingo, and bowling.
For more information, contact Pat Poffenberger, Rock County Recreation coordinator, at 608-752-4906.