Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A model story from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation Gala

from The News-Herald By Jean Bonchak:

Erin Farragher is fond of a large poster picturing children she modeled with at the recent Be Beautiful, Be Yourself Global Down Syndrome Foundation Gala.

She smiles as she proudly points to the photos of those who have become her friends since the Washington, D.C., event.

“The poster is her trophy,” explained her mother, Maria Dellapina.

Erin, 12, who lives with Dellapina in Burton Village, has Down syndrome and was chosen to model for the fundraiser benefitting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado in Denver.

The audition tape showing Erin sporting her sister’s party frock caught event organizers’ eyes and landed her the runway spot.

“You put her in something frilly and fashionable and she’s a princess,” Dellapina said. “I knew she’d want to perform.”

Once chosen, Erin, who attends Geauga Project Achieve in the Kenston School District, practiced for the special occasion by promenading around the house and waving ceremoniously.

The rehearsal served her well as she successfully strutted down the gala’s runway.

Although she had several dresses from which to choose, she said her selection was based on its pleasing pattern with a look of peacock feathers and was cut in such a way that she could twirl in it.Meeting a few celebrities and politicians in attendance was another perk.

Supermodel Beverly Johnson, the foundation’s spokeswoman who has a niece with Down syndrome, took a significant amount of time with the models, which made Erin especially happy, Dellapina said. Erin’s bright smile and hearty nod affirmed her mother’s assessment.

Erin also had a chance to meet actor Jamie Foxx’s sister, DeOndra Dixon, the ambassador for the foundation, and she danced with entertainer and songstress Gladys Knight.

Politicians attending the event included U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas; both advocates for the genetic condition affecting 5,500 children born each year in the U.S.

Dellapina, who was inspired by her daughter to initiate the business Spec4us, which provides custom frames for people with Down syndrome, said she noticed some of the models wearing ill-fitting eyeglasses and has since helped some of them.

With an optical technician background, Dellapina said she recognized the need for the customized glasses when she was unable to find a pair to correctly fit Erin.

She sent her own designs — which revised standard glasses to fit the facial features often associated with Down syndrome individuals — to some manufacturers and eventually found one in South Korea with whom she is working.

Dellapina said the need for such a service is obvious. She often receives positive feedback from many people, including some who said that before the adjusted frames they chose not to wear glasses because they were too uncomfortable or didn’t work.

“I just feel blessed that we are able to enrich their lives, and they can participate in school and see the world more clearly,” Dellapina said.

Meanwhile, Erin is still basking in the memories of her modeling experience.

“I think the smile on her face while she was on the runway said it all,” Dellapina said.

Mother and daughter plan to return to the gala next year, and Erin is especially looking forward to reuniting with her friends.

 “I know when we are back … she will remember each one of them,” Dellapina said. 

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy to see glasses designed for children with DS. My daughter from 6 months needed glasses and none worked. They didn't fit and she kept ripping them off. We just had her go without glasses and thankfully her eyes got better on their own and she doesn't need them right now. If she does need some later, I would love to know how to get some of the special glasses. My e-mail is any info is appreciated.