Abilities Fair debuts at Huntington mall today
BARBOURSVILLE -- Vickie Lambert is having an exciting week, thanks to the Huntington Mall's inaugural Abilities Fair, which starts Friday, June 20.
Thursday marked a rare trip to the mall and a chance to get ready for her first fashion show.
"I picked out a dress," she said. "I think it's the most glamorous thing I've ever done."
That is what the Abilities Fair is about -- allowing people with disabilities a chance to get out in the community and shine, said Dee Delancy, vice president for Resource Development and Communications at Mountain State Centers for Independent Living.
The organization is teaming up with the mall for the fair, which goes on Friday through Sunday, June 20-22, during mall hours. It will feature vendors with information and resources available to those with disabilities and their families and special activities. Among them are a West Virginia Day celebration with cake, visits with storybook characters, giveaways, and a fashion show in which models are people of all ages with disabilities, their family members and employees who work in the disabilities community. It will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Macy's Court.
"I'm so excited the mall has given us the opportunity to be here and celebrate what their abilities are," said Anne Weeks, president and CEO of Mountain State Centers for Independent Living. "Doing the fashion show will be really great. It's something they've never experienced and would never have the chance to experience. This is a good opportunity for consumers to be actively involved. Some people will be (sitting at vendor tables) talking to people, and that will be a good experience, too."
She's hoping the weekend will be a great experience for people in the community with disabilities, a helpful one-stop shop for families looking for resources to help their loved ones -- and an opportunity for mall-goers to see how capable those with disabilities truly are.
Michelle Norweck, director of the Fair Shake Network Inc., a disabilities advocacy group, has a son, Christopher, who has Down syndrome. She said she's glad about all opportunities for him to get involved.
"Anything that positively highlights people with disabilities, I'm all for," she said. "People with disabilities need to be seen in their community."
She wants people to realize how much those with disabilities have in common with everybody else and how important inclusion is in everything -- education, employment, community events and projects, and in enjoying hobbies.
"Just because you have a disability, it doesn't limit you from participating in your community," Norweck said.
The event is a great idea, said Rhonda Jones of Chesapeake, Ohio, who was there with brother Michael Jones to pick out clothes for the fashion show. She grew up with three brothers with autism, one who has passed away, and said she herself copes with dyslexia.
"I grew up in the time period when people kept things hidden and kids were separated in school," she said.
It's a changing world today, she said.
The idea for the fair started as an effort to try something new at the mall, said Margi MacDuff, the mall's marketing director. She thought about the success of the mall's Special Santa and Special Easter Bunny events, and the friends she has raising children with special needs. They're always looking for help and resources, she said.
"I thought, 'Why not have something where we can put this all in one spot,' " she said. "It's all about celebrating what you can do with people of all ages and abilities."
Vendors will have information on everything from legal issues to employment opportunities to literacy to camps.
Norweck said she appreciates that the event will pull together resources in one place this weekend for families. That's one definite need in the community, she said. There's no single website or directory to turn to for all your information, she said.
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