GENESEE COUNTY — “This is Me,” the first ever special needs fashion show benefiting the Autism Support and Resource Center (ASRC) takes place at 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Mott Community College Event Center. The show features models with various special needs.
David Chilingirian, 14, who was diagnosed with autism and is the son of Anne Haley, executive director for the ASRC, is being featured as a model.
“David’s hobbies include basketball, swimming, roller coasters, amusement parks and waterslides,” Haley said. “He’s very talented at puzzles. He has a wonderful smile that lights up the room and an infectious laugh. I believe he’s looking forward to the event, though his communication is limited. I hope he enjoys the event and feels the love of everyone celebrating him.”
Ellary Morris, 18, who was diagnosed with autism and is the daughter of Amy Morris, director of family and community education for the ASRC, is also being featured.
In addition, Rocco Turner, 8, who was diagnosed with autism and is the son of Toyia Turner, director of fund development for the ASRC, is being featured.
“Rocco has a very joyful personality and also brings joy to all his friends and family,” said Toyia Turner, “He’s really excited and saying he wants to do ‘This is Me.’ He said he wants to sing and dance. He’ll be able to showcase his fun and joyous personality. ‘This is Me’ will be celebrating inclusion and uplifting differently abled individuals. Together we’ll be breaking down barriers for a more inclusive and accepting community.”
Tracy Palmer, owner of and instructor for Trendsetters Productions modeling and etiquette school, says putting kids on the runway is a huge confidence builder. This July, “Fashion Against Bullying” became the school’s biggest show yet. A woman who came to see the show posted on Facebook that she wished her autistic son could have taken part in a show like the anti-bullying fashion show. So, Palmer partnered with ASRC.
The show also features individuals who are hearing impaired or who have cerebral palsy or Asperger’s syndrome. Palmer extended an invitation for children with special needs to apply to be models on social media.
Models will wear personality outfits they pick themselves, clothing designed by Damon Drew (who has an anti-bullying clothing line), casual wear and will model “This is Me” shirts and socks selected by an autistic young man who collects socks named Emari Suggs.
Poetry by Issac Kemp, singing by Adam Baker and pantomime by Keith Darrough II are being featured for entertainment in between the fashion show scenes.
Half the proceeds from the fashion show benefit ASRC. ASRC has many programs to help teens and adults with autism lead more independent lives. There are also a variety of social and recreational programs starting next year including dance, soccer, basketball and a summer camp program. Funds raised will go towards the costs associated with these programs.
Details on ASRC: geneseeautism.org. Tickets ($10): This is Me TracyTNewt Palmer Facebook events page.