Cameras flashed, music beats pulsated throughout the banquet hall and audience members cheered as models adorned in glittering dresses, slick suits, leather jackets and hip children’s apparel walked the runway at the Fontana Primavera Event Centre in Vaughan, Ont., on Nov. 14.
But this was no ordinary fashion show and the stars were not your typical models. This extra special night featured the families and children of Kayla’s Children Centre (KCC), an organization that serves children with physical and developmental challenges. It was KCC’s 14th annual fashion show.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th, professional models and community members showcased top Canadian designs from Sugar and Spice Children’s Boutique, House of Suri, Rita Tesolin Inc., Art of Suiting, NARCES and other local designer boutiques.
Twenty KCC children graced the runway with their parents and/or siblings. Numerous other community members also volunteered as models and helped raise money for KCC.
The annual fashion show began as a fundraising initiative for Zareinu, a Toronto school and treatment centre for children with special needs that was founded in 1989. This past May, Zareinu merged with Project AIM, a local organization that runs programs, including Camp AIM, for children with special needs.
Zareinu recently changed its name to KCC after Aaron Serruya, co-founder of Yogen Fruz, donated $6 million, in honour of his daughter, Kayla, a former Zareinu student.
KCC now runs a state-of-the-art facility in Thornhill, Ont., that houses its preschool, elementary and autism classes, Camp AIM, after school and weekend recreational programs and other therapeutic initiatives. It also operates satellite classes housed at Eitz Chaim, Yeshiva Yesodei Hatorah and Ner Israel Yeshiva of Toronto.
A video presented at the event highlighted the stories of two KCC students. The first was of five-year-old Aiden, who has cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment and epilepsy. His smile lit up his face, as he was shown enjoying activities, such as playing in the sensory gym, relaxing in a therapy room and riding a bicycle with the support of KCC staff.
“He’s in the right environment,” said Aiden’s mother, Stephanie Katz. “He’s being nurtured. He’s able to develop to the best of his abilities, and this is just the start.”
The second was Adina, a two-year-old KCC student who hasn’t been diagnosed, but has already come a long way, despite facing numerous challenges. Some of those challenges include mobility issues and being unable to swallow. She chokes a lot and her mother, Gitty Samsonowitz, explained that she has to stick a tube down her nose and throat to suction out saliva.
“All of her doctors can’t believe she’s doing the things that she is today. They told me that she would never do anything, never sit or stand,” said Samsonowitz.
“The fact that Adina’s on a bike wearing a helmet is crazy. Since she started school this year, she has been thriving.”
In addition to the fashion show, the event featured a raffle, as well as a number of vendors selling goods, such as leather bags from LeDaveed, clothing items from Sunrise Fur and jewellery from Rebekah Price Designs.
The vendors donated 10 per cent of their proceeds from that night to KCC. Community models also collectively raised over $200,000 for the organization, helping bring the total to about $600,000.
According to KCC CEO Yaffi Scheinberg, there are currently 137 active families using its services. The preschool and satellite classes have 68 students.
The annual tuition for a child is $30,000 and the costs are much higher in cases where a staff member is needed to support a student full time.
“Ongoing fundraising efforts are the sustaining factor for this school,” Scheinberg told The CJN. “All of our support programs are heavily subsidized, and we never turn a family away based on finances. We will find a sponsor, a donor or another way to fund the programs needed.”
For more information, visit zareinu.org, or call 905-738-5542.