Women with Disabilities Put On a Fashion Show

Thu, December 10, 2009

On a recent Thursday evening, a crowd gathered in Greenwich Village to view the latest fashions coming down a runway. The event wasn’t at a designer store or a rented venue but at YAI’s Manhattan Recreation Services. Participants from the Girlz Only Club, which meets weekly, planned the event with staff members and volunteers from the Brighter Futures Society (BFS), YAI Network's young professionals group. When group leaders brought up the idea to members, the response was overwhelmingly positive. After months of planning and anticipation, the event grew into a fundraiser, complete with a raffle and auction.

The Girlz Only Club began when two staff members saw the need for a class designed to teach skills specific to women with developmental disabilities. Every week the group meets and discusses a specific topic, including job readiness, coping with stress, body image, self-defense, breast cancer awareness and relationships. The Girlz Only Club builds participants’ self-confidence while teaching skills that extend beyond day-to-day life.

BFS member Ting Ji taught the ladies how to walk on the runway. “On the day of the show one or two of the participants were nervous. But as soon as they hit the runway they were all smiles.”

The evening culminated in a packed house full of family and friends, leaving participants with a soaring confidence. “My family came and they loved it!” said Jennifer, a Girlz Only Club member.

Men in the Manhattan Recreation Program took notice of the fashion show. Several male participants volunteered to escort the fashionistas down the runway. In keeping with YAI Network’s philosophy of inclusion, they wound up showing off high fashion as well! Based on the success of the Girlz Only Club and the event, they too are now planning a men’s group in the near future, with a fashion show of their own.

“The women, and surprisingly the men, really showed it out! It was a fantastic event!” said Edna Bey, Supervisor of Manhattan Recreation Services.

“I was so proud to be a part of this show,” said Ting Ji. “The group did so well and raised more money than expected.  We hope to have one every season!” Programs like the Girlz Only Club are made possible by private funding. Support this and other recreation programs by giving today.