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Zareinu's Fashion Show is Just Around the Corner

Shalom Life speaks with the Zareinu Educational Centre about their annual Fashion Show fundraiser hosted by Jeanne Beker.
By: Ashley Baylen
Published: November 8th, 2011 in Culture » Society » Interviews
(left to right)Renee Rosenzweig-Event Co-chair, Jeanne Beker - Host, Stacy Markin-Event Co-chair

Zareinu Educational Centre of Metropolitan Toronto will be hosting their annual Fashion Show on November 16th at On The Park. Hosted by Fashion TV’s Jeanne Beker, the magnificent night will feature today’s top designers and most importantly, Zareinu’s incredible children. All funds raised go directly to the Zareinu Educational Centre.

Zareinu is a unique educational centre for children with disabilities and their families, utilizing modern and progressive therapies and learning strategies to ensure each child achieves their full potential.

Shalom Life recently caught up with Marla Ingles (Vice-President of Fundraising, Zareinu) and Stacy Markin (Event Co-Chair, Zareinu Fashion Show) to discuss Zareinu, the upcoming Fashion Show, and this year’s theme and designers.

Ashley Baylen (AB): What sets Zareinu apart from other educational centres for children with disabilities?

Marla Ingles (MI): What sets Zareinu apart from other educational centres for children with disabilities is that it is the only centre that provides both therapeutic and educational support to the children all under the same roof. Zareinu’s team of special educators and therapists work cooperatively, using a trans-disciplinary model to provide integrated programs and services.

Stacy Markin (SM): Parents of a special needs child have something in common, feelings and questions that are overwhelming: What can I do to help my child?, Am I doing everything in my power to help my child?, Am I accessing all my opportunities?, How do educate my child?

Zareinu answers all of these questions and more. Zareinu treats and educates each child on an individual basis, according to their personal and individual needs and diagnosis. Zareinu works with children who embody every physical and cognitive challenge. Zareinu sees the Child’s abilities rather than their disabilities. Zareinu never refuses a child because of a family’s inability to meet the high cost of tuition; there are subsidies. Zareinu is steeped in Jewish tradition and learning, Zareinu is academics for every level, low to high functioning. Zareinu has early infant intervention, and a program individually tailored to meet individual needs and classrooms strategically set up to meet individual learning needs. Zareinu has many wonderful state of the art first class therapies – hands on – all day long.

Many other special needs programs do not offer in house therapies under the same roof as the school; many programs offer consultative therapists who do not actually work with the child. At Zareinu, the therapists –occupational, speech, physio, music, swim, all work directly with the child. The cost, time, and energy of coordinating such therapies and social workers outside of a day program are exhausting to most families, but at Zareinu, everything is there.

It’s a one stop shop. There is no other facility – day treatment and learning centre – like this, and families pick up and come from all over, especially Israel – to have a placement at Zareinu and give their child every opportunity to reach their full potential at a cost that is reasonable, especially for the return they receive.

AB: Who decided to plan he first fashion show 8 years ago? How has the fashion show evolved over the years?

SM: Nine years ago, besides being a Zareinu parent, in my capacity as a Zareinu board member, I was the only female board member sitting in a monthly board meeting, when former board member Evan Sone mentioned that his close friend, singer Andrea Kreidstein, had an idea to start a fundraiser for women, in memory of her late mother, and Evan suggested this opportunity was perfect for Zareinu. Evan thought a fashion show for women paired with Andrea singing as the entertainment portion would be a good idea as a new fundraiser in the community to raise money and awareness for Zareinu.

Evan turned to me and said, “Stacy, I think you should take on this project”. I was stunned at the idea of such an undertaking (having twin toddlers and one child with special needs at the time), but I said “sure, I’ll do it”. That year, Zareinu Fashion & Song was born. It was a grass roots project with a dedicated hardworking team of volunteers, the event sold out, there was a standing ovation, and we grossed $25,000. Renee Rosenzweig joined me as a co-chair and has remained faithfully on board ever since. There was a buzz about the show in the community for many weeks to come. It was an amazing and emotionally charged experience. I was hooked. Over the years, we had different entertainment and celebrities such as Nikki Yanofsky, different creative themes, amazing couture fashions, and we realized that the fashion show can stand on its own, between the professional models, the dazzling clothes, and the Zareinu students and children from the community who also grace the runway in the children’s portion of the show. Actually, the children are the highlight!

After a few years, we dropped the “Song”, and remain the Zareinu Fashion Show, and it is hugely successful, beyond what I ever could have envisioned 9years ago when the seed was planted. Esti Cohen has come aboard as another wonderful co-chair. Together with Esti, Renee and myself, the fashion show volunteer team and the Zareinu Event staff work together to put on what is touted as the most magnificent fashion show in Toronto, outside of Toronto Fashion Week. The fashion show has morphed into a professionally produced, professionally styled, imaginative mega-extravaganza, that captivates audiences between 600 and 1,000 people annually, and brings in ripple effect returns by building far-reaching awareness and financial benefits to the this one of a kind school and day treatment centre that is such an important institution and benefits so many families with children who have a wide variety of special needs.

AB: What is the theme of this year’s event?

SM: Our theme this year celebrates both our differences and our similarities. It's message is 'Although I look different I'm just like you.'

In our opening video we show that although our kids may look a little different they still have the same likes, hopes, desires, and enjoyment out of life. For example, some kids love music, some love art and others love dance.

Our kids(Zareinu students, that is) can't always explain what their needs and desires are, but they have other talents, and their own unique abilities that Zareinu works with to help each child be the best that they can be.

AB: Which designers can we expect to see?

SM: Clothing- Danier, Designer collections- Greta Constantine, Mark Fast, George Antonopoulos, Divine Decadence , Edit by Jeanne Beker , Seventy, Shenkin West , Accessories- Town Shoes , Ayala Raiter, Rita Tesolin , Suru's Boutique, Kid's Wear- Matooka, Devilish Angelz, Lil Vogue, Jaytex , Ben Sherman, Crawford Boys , Hair & Make-Up- M.A.C., Salon Daniel

AB: Are the children from the centre involved in the planning process?

SM: While the children from the centre who are involved in the video and the modeling are not involved in the actual planning, they are the impetus that sparks our collaborative imagination to create a theme and run with an idea.

The children from Zareinu are truly an inspiration to us all through their strength, hard work and individual circumstances which bring them to Zareinu. Each child who attends Zareinu comes with a story. Each story grows with their progress at Zareinu. Each family behind the child paints a picture that moves us. We, in turn, try to move the audience, to feel what we feel, and to see what we see, thereby believing in Zareinu and the potential Zareinu brings out in each child, changing lives.

The Zareinu Fashion Show is no ordinary fashion show. It is an inspirational evening that moves you. The goal here is to move the audience to understand, to get involved, and to do something further. We want the audience to leave inspired and in awe of Zareinu and the children. We want the audience to leave and talk about it with others; to spread the word, spreading awareness, and to give generously to the cause. Zareinu has many giving opportunities. The website www.zareinu.org details all the opportunities and ways to give back to Zareinu. Zareinu is growing every year to meet the needs of these vulnerable children who may have no other school and treatments which meet all their needs all in one facility.

For more information, please visit www.zareinu.org

Related articles: Jeanne Beker, Zareinu Educationa Centre, Children, Learning Disabilities, Fashion Show, On The Park, Toronto, MAC, Salon Daniel, Town Shoes
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