The Sands, in Atlantic Beach, hosted the Limb Kind Foundation’s fourth annual Show Your Shine Adaptive Runway Show last Saturday.
The event is organized by Jill Smith, an occupational therapist who founded Show Your Shine to raise funds to benefit the Limb Kind Foundation and celebrate those with limb loss. She teams up each year with her brother, Robert Schulman, the founder and executive director of Limb Kind, a nonprofit that was founded in Oceanside and is now headquartered in Ozone Park, whose mission, according to it website, is “improving the lives of children with limb loss, both domestic and international, by strengthening the amputee community and providing pediatric prosthetic care to all.”
The event has repeatedly been a sold-out success, drawing attention to the courage and resilience of young people with limb differences and limb loss and creating a supportive environment for them.
“This is a special evening that continues to further advance our mission of improving the lives of children with limb loss,” Schulman said, “by strengthening the amputee community … not only in New York, but around the world.”
The show isn’t merely a celebration; it’s also a platform for empowerment and raising awareness, its organizers say.
“The event provides a unique opportunity for the amputee community,” Schulman said, “inspiring others and fostering a sense of unity and acceptance.”
Smith, who said she is passionate about challenging societal norms and perceptions, shared her motivation for creating the event.
“I want people to stare for the right reasons,” she said. “These individuals are stared at daily due to their differences, but at this event, all eyes will be on them, celebrating.”
Ranging from ages 6 to 46, more than 20 participants, many of them children, worked the runway, celebrating their differences and strength despite having experienced limb loss in various forms, be it arms, legs or hands.
“It takes courage and confidence to walk down a runway, with or without a physical difference,” Smith said. “Through this experience, each model finds their own confidence, and their community learns that differences do not need to separate them from their dreams.”
Among the models was Matias Ferreira, 30, who holds the distinction of being the first double amputee patrolman in the country. Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps and sustained injuries in 2011, Ferreira now serves as a Suffolk County police officer.
“I’ve done some public speaking, but this is a different experience,” Ferreira said on Saturday. “It’s nerve-racking with the flashing lights and a lot of people looking at you. But we did a walk-through yesterday, which helped me get a little more comfortable being on the stage.”
Ferreira’s presence wasn’t just about his own journey. It also symbolized a collaboration between the Limb Kind Foundation and Beyond the Badge, a volunteer-based organization with the mission of supporting members of law enforcement and raising awareness of the mental health and suicide crisis among first responders.
Expressing his admiration for the children taking part in the event, Ferreira said, “The kids really just fascinate me and impress me every single time with their perseverance and their view on life. I like to use the word ‘typical’ instead of ‘normal’; you’re just a typical kid doing typical things.”
Another model, Alexandra Capellini, a 28-year-old first-time participant from Brooklyn, expressed similar sentiments, emphasizing the importance of community and self-expression for young amputees. “This is a great chance to show the rest of the models that you can create your own confidence walking around with their prosthetics,” she said.
Capellini emphasized how the amputee community was what really drove her to express herself and gain confidence. “When I was the same age as a lot of the younger models,” she said, “I was very nervous to wear anything that showed my prosthesis, but I want to show them that you can wear skirts and shorts and take back your own narrative.”
One of the youngest participants, 8-year-old Elizabeth Calvert, was modeling for the second year. Her excitement was obvious as she expressed her favorite things about the show. “At the end, there’s a dance party, and it’s so fun,” she said.
In a world often obsessed with perfection, the Show Your Shine Adaptive Runway Show stands as a beacon of acceptance, resilience and unity. As the models took to the stage, they not only displayed the latest fashions but also their indomitable spirit, proving that differences can be celebrated and embraced.