Wisconsin member Jenny Addis is dedicated to changing perceptions of wheelchair users, in the public and within the wheelchair using community. That dedication led her to take part in an accessible fashion show, and her participation only opened her eyes to the event’s potential. To tap that potential, Addis, a C5-6 quad, organized and coordinated “This Is How We Roll,” a fashion show, fundraiser and community awareness event.
On October 20, 35 wheelchair-using models of all ages, sizes and types took over the catwalk and wowed a packed house. The event highlighted the importance of medical research, wheelchair accessibility and inclusion within the community by breaking down barriers and challenging society’s stereotypes. It also focused on providing each model with a life-changing experience by promoting positivity, self-worth and life skills.
“It was a moment in time for people to see and be seen differently,” says Addis. “For people to actually recognize that you can be a lawyer and be in a wheelchair. You can be gorgeous and be in a wheelchair. You can be handsome and be in a wheelchair.”
The runway models were successful, adventurous and both career- and fashion-oriented. Each possessed their own sense of style and had a wide variety of occupations. There were nurses, teachers, lawyers, writers and athletes — including the former and current Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin and Special Olympics swimmer and gymnast, Meghan McEneany.
The event benefitted the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation and its goals of finding a cure for paralysis through funding medical research and providing assistance to those affected by various neurological disorders.
“Over $13,400 was raised for the BRPF,” says Bryon Riesch, president of the BRPF. “We were honored just to be part of an event that raises so much awareness for individuals with paralysis and neurological disorders.”
“I was honored to be surrounded by such inspiring people at the inaugural ‘This Is How We Roll’ fashion show,” says Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, the event’s honorary host. “The tireless work by dedicated volunteers and participants is a testament to the efforts of the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation … on a cure for paralysis.”
Addis credited her sponsors and supporters with helping the first-time event go off smoothly. She says she is already planning a reprise and is excited by the possibility of hosting similar shows nationwide.
“I wanted to let our models have this journey and help them to grow,” she says. “It was important for people to see that there is more to us than our wheelchairs.”
Find more information on the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, or make a donation on behalf of the fashion show, at www.brpf.org. To meet the 2013 models and see behind-the-scenes footage, go to www.InspirationSpeaks.me and click on the photo gallery.