Walking the catwalk took on a new meaning during the recent Fashion Without Limits — Empowering Disabled Maine show. Held at the Avant Dance & Event Center in Westbrook on Nov. 18 and hosted by the Fashionable Giving networking group, the party and show raised more than $1,000 for the Ms. Wheelchair Maine Leadership and Advocacy Organization.
Among the nine models who rocked the runway, two were in wheelchairs and one has Asperger’s syndrome.
“I want to promote inclusion, so we’re going to mix the able bodies and the disabled models,” Ms. Wheelchair Maine 2011 Monica Quimby told me before the show.
When she took to the stage at the beginning of the show, Quimby, who also modeled at the event, told the crowd: “I’m really excited to be empowering people with disabilities. Anyone can be successful, no matter what you’ve been through in life.”
After being paralyzed in a skiing accident five years ago, Quimby went on to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. She now teaches at Southern Maine Community College and is director of education at Northeast Technical Institute.
Quimby’s work is sponsored by Alpha One, which helps disabled people live more independent lives. Beginning in January, Quimby’s group will launch a peer support group and will host a wheelchair dance and a sports awards banquet.
“This is a super-exciting event for me,” Regina Lucchese told me.
She lives with Asperger’s syndrome and both sang and modeled during the show.
“It’s a fashion show that empowers people like me, who I like to call handi-capable,” Lucchese said. “Right now I’m a minority within a minority.”
Like Quimby, Lucchese aims to raise awareness about how much people with disabilities have to offer. The pair are not alone in their efforts.
A senior at Waynflete School, Kings Floyd has multiple sclerosis, but she didn’t let that stop her from taking numerous turns on the runway, scooter and all.
“I want to go into disability advocacy in college,” Floyd told me. “This was such a great introduction to advocacy work.”
Other models showing off sexy holiday costumes from Lingerie de Amor and sophisticated evening wear from Restless Threads were Bethany Latulippe, Stephanie Poulin, Kesley Erin, Jennifer Profenno, Harmony Tomorrow and Christine Tetrault.
Singer Andrea Delan, who performed during the show, told the crowd, “I have a 14-year-old stepson with Asperger’s. I feel fortunate to be supporting this event.”
The show was emceed by Ry Russell and featured performances by stand-up comedian Dennis Fogg and singer Julianna Strout. Strout was Miss Rhode Island 2009 and now designs shoes under the Julianna Clare brand.
“It’s a great charity,” said Lynn LeVasseur of HealthSource, who paid to be a vendor at three Fashionable Giving events. “It’s so much fun. It’s not only giving back to the community but it’s making sure (the charity) has what they need.”
Judy Gobea of Yarmouth, who works for a home health care agency, told me, “We work with a lot of handicapped people, disabled people and senior citizens. So this is a great way to give back. It’s also in conjunction with Alpha One, which is one of the best organizations I’ve ever worked with.”
As for those of us at the show, we all learned a valuable lesson: No one should let a disability hold them back, even when they’re asked to take a turn on the runway.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: