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Breaking Barriers fashion show benefits LOGAN

| Thursday, April 9, 2015

The second annual Breaking Barriers Fashion Show was held at the Morris Inn on Wednesday night. The show featured members of Best Buddies, the Special Olympics, Special Friends and Super Sibs to simultaneously exemplify the work of each group and encourage others to join, as well as “break down the barriers for the full inclusion of people with developmental disabilities and help to spread awareness in the South Bend community,” according to the Notre Dame events calendar.

“The goal of this fashion show is first and foremost to display the beauty of friendship and convey the dignity and worth of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities,” the description read.

“It is different from other fashion shows because of the mission of the models,” freshman Meghan Freeman, a volunteer for the show, said. “This fashion show strives to embrace our differences and celebrate the bonds and friendships that have formed because of them. Not only that, but it also aims to raise money for future activities so that the benefits of the fashion show will last even after the last walk.”

Freeman said the money raised from the fashion show will be used to benefit LOGAN, which funds student initiatives for the Best Buddies, Special Olympics, and Special Friends and Special Sibs clubs in the area.

Senior Alexis Pala has been a Buddy and student researcher within Best Buddies since her freshman year and served as the main coordinator for the show.

“Although significant progress has been made in recent years, people with intellectual disabilities continue to be segregated globally,” Pala said. “All the clubs in the show work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in various capacities to highlight the things that they love and reveal their true potentials. With this show we want to celebrate those we work with and show everyone the relationships that we have formed and the value we bring to each others lives.”

She said that the show “isn’t only about the clothes we are wearing, but the beauty of those wearing them.”

According to Pala, the idea for the show was conceived after her experiences working on a similar fashion show with Best Buddies in Madrid, Spain.

“We borrowed the name ‘Breaking Barriers’ from the United Nations’ campaign “breaking down barriers to full inclusion” that they used for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” she said.

The show was brought to Notre Dame for the first time last year, when it was held in Legends Nightclub as part of Spread the Word to End the Word Day. Pala noted that this year is unique in its focus on the collaboration between the South Bend community and Notre Dame clubs.

This year’s show involved an immense amount of preparation, including reaching out to potential donors, Freeman said. Clothing had to be secured for all ages and sexes through donations from Ali Boutique, Little Princess Treasures, and Macy’s.

Sorella, a local boutique, was “extremely helpful and enthusiastic, and the owner worked to make sure that every buddy pair had an outfit that was perfect for them,” Freeman said.

Organizers also had to secure help from Notre Dame’s University Hair Stylists to help, as well as, Chipotle and other local establishments for gift bags. The organizers also recruited volunteers to emcee, write short bios to be read during participants’ walks and help to complete various tasks.

The show was emceed by one of Notre Dame’s leprechauns, Mitch Meersman, and featured a slideshow displaying each group participating in various activities from the past year. Before the show began, the night opened with a performance by the Humor Artists, a video combatting “Ableism” that addressed stigmas surrounding mental disabilities and a performance by the Pom Squad.

Models walked out alongside their respective Buddies, each of whom was a Notre Dame student, as Meersman read models’ brief bios and described the outfits worn. Speeches from organizers and performances from Notre Dame a cappella groups Halftime and the Undertones were interspersed throughout the show. The night ended with all of the models and their buddies joining in to sing Notre Dame’s alma mater.

“We are looking to gain more popularity and become an event that people want to come back to every year,” Freeman said. “At the end of the day, we hope to raise money to sponsor future events, and we just want everyone to have fun.”

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About Andrea Vale

Andrea Vale is a freshman at Notre Dame who has previously written for both the Sun Chronicle and the Huffington Post. She plans to major in English with a Creative Writing concentration and a minor in Journalism.

Contact Andrea