When you think of a fashion show, you might think of tall, skinny models strutting down the runway in extravagant clothing. But The Heart at Play (THP) offered a completely different kind of experience. No expensive brands or professional models—but something more incredible and heart warming.
The Runway Specialé: A Story of Beauty was a fashion show with a lot of variety—dance performances, song performances, speeches and videos, and more importantly, the models were people who conquered the runway in their own inspiring way. They were Persons with Special Needs (PWSNs)—children and adults with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.
Throughout the show, the audience was constantly reminded of what true beauty is all about: love from your family and strength to persevere through hardships and challenges faced by PWSNs daily.
A compelling and genuine opening dance number introduced us to the struggles of parents, who may at first not know how to handle their children, but who learn that it is through love and acceptance that they can help their child grow. Some parents shared their stories: mommy Evelyn Go, a THP member whose child, a 26-year old with autism, currently goes to school for PWSNs. And mommy Zeny, whose daughter has down syndrome and has been participating in THP’s programs for six years now.
Although it was difficult for their children to follow, these parents learned with the help of the dance movement therapy provided by THP, that crying and stress can turn into joy and happiness. They saw the improvement through THP’s help—less tantrums, less need for supervision, and more grace, strength, and sociability. Quoting Mommy Zeny, “I thought having a special child was a lifetime burden, but that changed in 2011. Joining the community molded me to be better, more loving, more accepting and more passionate. THP was the right program and community for my kid.”
The PWSNs with their mothers and guardians performing a touching dance number
The runway walks of the PWSNs and their families were truly moving. We were constantly reminded that we must completely shatter the notion that our special brothers and sisters cannot make a difference in this world, or cannot make a significant change in our society. These boys and girls are a symbol of hope, love, and peace, and how there is no challenge so difficult that cannot be overcome by people who support and help each other.
Mommy Evelyn said in her speech, “It takes a community to raise a child with autism…through THP we see our children becoming more independent, accepting, and responsible.” And we did see how supportive and understanding the THP community is, by the many contributions of other groups and teams throughout the event. More than just the zeal of the THP Rotaract Club, who served as the organizing committee and who are also the weekly volunteers, there are numerous partner organizations who added to the fun and festivities of the show.
The high school models—boys and girls from different schools who spend their time to help volunteering—showed us their lively and colorful personalities with a series of runway walks and quirky dances in between.
There were also youth models, who are from the different partner organizations of THP. Pairs from these groups would strut down the stage and entertain the audience with their sprightly moves.
THP also featured Model Ambassadors, who are inspiring personalities and leaders in their craft. Among these model ambassadors are Ms. Teen Earth 2015 and founder of Project Lily, Aya Fernandez; dancer Dani Cornejo; blogger Miko Carreon; 99.5 Play FM DJ Rammy Bitong; model and beauty queen Yuri Caunca; artist Kara Pangilinan (who was unfortunately not present at the show); and actor Lance Raymundo. They are regular volunteers, whose influence amplifies the message of THP.
Numerous dance groups and musical performances kept the audience entertained throughout the night
The Heart at Play
The Heart at Play was founded by Teacher Ana Rivera and her daughters, Patricia and Therese. Established in 2011, the organization has been providing children and adults with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities with free dance movement therapy. This weekly therapy helps the marginalized persons with special needs lead a more active and productive life.
The volunteers showed us some of the techniques THP uses to help the motor skills of the PWSNs. One of which was the Rope of Hope, wherein the volunteers and wards hold it and altogether raise it up or put it down, pull left or right, and the levels and speed become more complicated as they go along to not stagnate the progress.
The Heart at Play regularly meets on Saturdays at Sacred Heart Parish. For more information on the Heart at Play visit www.facebook.com/theheartatplayPH or text 09063701001.
All photos taken by Lilay Macaventa