TORONTO — At last month’s Zareinu Fashion Show, Stacy Markin got emotional when she spoke about her 13-year-old daughter, a Zareinu student, who has recently begun to walk.
The Markin sisters, Shayna and Kayla, modelling at the Zareinu Fashion Show.
Markin told the audience that her daughter, Shayna, now walks independently from the car into school.
This is one of the many miracles that the Zareinu Educational Centre has helped to produce over its 19 years of helping children with special needs reach their maximum potential.
According to doctors who diagnosed her early in life, Shayna should not have been able to walk or talk, or even identify her mother.
She certainly knows who her mother is, waving to her from the runway as she and sister, Kayla, modelled Zero 20 Bambini outfits as part of the fifth annual fashion show, held at the Terrace Banquet Hall in Vaughan.
The show’s title, Sunshine + Lollipops, was inspired by Lesley Gore’s 1965 song, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.
The New York-style, high-end fashion show, hosted by Linda Frum, was held on Nov. 20, International Children’s Day. The show featured spring 2009 lines from Ports 1961, Hugo Nicholson and Ines di Santo, which were modelled by adult professionals as well as child models, seven of whom are Zareinu students. Some children shared their inspirational stories during the show.
One student who took part is 18 months old. Another participant, a wheelchair user, was hoisted up onto the runway by two strong men.
The children’s stories focused on the rainbow of talents children with special needs possess, while shining light on the challenges faced by them on a daily basis. The stories help to combat prejudice and inspire hope.
“Although I haven’t been personally touched by challenges that special needs present, I could never look away,” said Renee Rosenzweig, who was co-chair of the event, along with Markin. “I recognized the universal nature of this cause.
“The children at Zareinu represent all of us in so many ways. We all struggle with challenges, some more demanding than others.”
The Thornhill school, located inside the Sephardic Kehilla Centre, charges annual tuition of $40,000 and accommodates 70 students, only some of the children in the community who need the exceptional services that this one-of-a-kind institution offers.
Guest speaker Sholom Brothman, a Zareinu student since he was six years old, talked of the drastic changes that have come about in his life since entering the school’s doors in 1995. Now 19, he is attending the Zareinu boys’ high school at the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre and doing a co-op placement as a teacher’s assistant at the Koffler Centre for the Arts. He said that everything in his life is great.
Zareinu provides special education and individualized therapies to children from birth up to 21 years of age, who have a wide range of physical and developmental challenges. Its staff delivers innovative therapeutic treatments and programs to meet their unique needs.
“We think every child is special, and beautiful and important,” Markin said. “They should be celebrated and accepted.”