The Shine Fashion Show took place at Somerset Aug. 27 to benefit Variety the Children’s Charity as well as the FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation.
TROY — On Aug. 27, several young models took to the runway at Somerset Collection in Troy for the eighth annual Shine Fashion Show.
The show is notable because all its models are young people from the community with special needs. The show is organized by Variety the Children’s Charity and benefits Variety as well as the FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation program.
“The Shine Fashion Show is a heartwarming, beautiful afternoon where the children and families of Variety and FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation get to experience a fashion show,” said Michelle Murphy, the executive director of Variety. “The models in the show are those with unique and special needs or cognitive and physical challenges, and they are expertly outfitted by Somerset retailers and fashion stylists.”
Murphy said that being able to give these young people a day where they get to be front and center makes a big difference to them.
“Variety is a charity for children, and we pride ourselves on inclusivity and driving opportunities for children with special needs, so it is a natural, wonderful thing to put on a fashion show where these young people are models,” she said. “They get to experience a spotlight on them, which might not usually be there. We know it’s a wonderful gift that not only the models cherish, but their families as well.”
Alex Bai, of West Bloomfield, was among the models who took part that day. He added some dance moves as he strutted down the aisle.
“I enjoy the modeling and getting gifts and stuff like that. It’s cool; it’s an exciting thing,” said Alex Bai. “It’s fun and it puts a smile on my face.”
His mother, Esther Bai, was on hand and said the show means a lot to Alex.
“He’s been in the show all eight years. We were asked to take part. My son is involved with FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation. He has been taking music therapy lessons there for about 12 years.”
She added that the programs the show raises money for can make a huge difference in the life of those with special needs.
“Alex enjoys participating in the show,” she said. “It raises money for kids with special needs that their families might not otherwise be able to afford, so it’s a wonderful cause.”
The models not only get to walk the runway, but they also get to keep the clothes they select.
“They spend the morning at the Alex Emilio Salon in Royal Oak, where they receive hair and makeup services donated by the talented staff,” said Murphy. “Each model submits a form, and it allows them to tell us their sizes, color preferences, and their style preferences, and the wonderful staff at Somerset Collection selects the outfits. The models come for two days of fittings. They are then sent to the salon the morning of the show to get their hair and makeup done. After the show, they are all gifted the outfits as well as gift certificates from the Somerset Collection.”
Pamela Ayres, the president of FAR, said that the money raised by the event goes on to do enormous good for kids with special needs.
“FAR provides creative arts therapy for any age and any diagnosis,” said Ayres. “We serve about 1,500 people a year. We’re a 70-year-old organization that provides art therapy, music therapy, dance movement therapy and recreational therapy.”
She complimented Variety’s horseback riding program as well, since it is the other recipient of the raised funds.
“We collaborate with Variety, and they support a horseback riding program for kids with special needs,” said Ayres. “It’s a great program they offer which allows kids who would never have the chance to ride a horse be able to do so with the professionals and equipment necessary to allow that to happen.”
Ayres believes that providing these funds can make a huge difference, especially since raising children with special needs often means higher living expenses to begin with due to costs like medical care.
“This helps raise money so our therapy programs can be offered free of charge,” she said. “We know that raising a child is expensive, and being part of a group can sometimes be beyond a family’s means. We offer free groups to our families enrolled in FAR’s private services.”
Murphy hopes the show will convince more people in the community to get involved in such causes and organizations.
“We hope this will convince people to get involved,” said Murphy. “Everything we do is inspiring. It creates opportunity. It creates a life-changing difference, whether it’s the Shine show itself or the programs that it benefits.”
Ayres said that children with special needs can often feel forgotten about or like they are misfits. Events like the Shine Fashion Show bring them not only a feeling of fitting in, but also of getting to be the star of a major event.
“Today is so important because, if you were here, you would see all the people watching and it makes sure the community knows about our friends with special needs,” she said. “People with special needs are some of the most amazing people, and you just want to give them the opportunity to feel beautiful the way a neurotypical kid would.”
More information on Variety can be found at variety.org. More information on FAR can be found at far-therapy.org.