WEST ORANGE, NJ — Members of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC), West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi and members of the council, members of the West Orange business community and representatives of the Holy Trinity Food Pantry, Unico, Lions Club and Kiwanis gathered to celebrate the holiday and give thanks to the West Orange community on Wednesday at the WOCC Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon at Mayfair Farms.
Following an invocation by Rabbi Sickler of Temple AABJ&D, Master of Ceremonies and event chair Ken Baris of Jordan Baris, Inc., Realtors introduced Parisi and keynote guest speaker Mindy Scheier, founder of Runway of Dreams.
“The mayor really touched my heart because I think we don't take time to appreciate the things that we have—we are always looking for something else,” said Helen Flores, executive director of the West Essex YMCA. “So he was eloquent. I was particularly impressed with Mindy and Runway of Dreams because one of our Y members is part that project. They are really doing amazing work.”
Runway of Dreams is a nonprofit that works to broaden the reach of adaptive clothing and promote people with disabilities in fashion through inclusion, empowerment and opportunity. Scheier, who spent more than 20 years working in fashion, took her career in a new direction when her son Oliver, who has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, wanted to wear jeans to school like his friends.
After realizing that millions of people around the globe were also struggling to access fashionable clothing that meets their needs, Scheier began to envision a world where adaptive clothing for people with disabilities was mainstream and developed modifications to meet a wide variety of needs within the differently abled community.
Runway of Dreams, in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, accomplished the first-ever mainstream adaptive clothing line available to kids in Spring 2016 and Scheier continues to break down barriers and challenge industry norms.
“I felt inspired leaving the luncheon,” said Tina Parsons, treasurer of the WOCC and West Orange Branch Manager of Regal Bank. “It opened my eyes to see that there are more people with disabilities out there then what we are aware of and that made me want to be a part of that community to help support them.”
Susan Wernick, Chief Marketing Officer of Bederson LLP said Scheier's presentation not only told of how she used her skills to create remarkable adaptive clothing, but also pointed out “the importance of being able to embody a sense of a personal style that reflects one’s true self—regardless of one’s circumstance.”
“Mindy Scheier's presentation was excellent,” said Wernick. “The larger-most important message, perhaps, pointed to the endless cycle of empowerment one person can create by lifting others. Lending a hand that brings dignity and independence to others, regardless of their situation is truly one of life’s highest callings.”
On behalf of the Lions Club, Robert Rochor presented the proceeds from the event’s 50/50 to Scheier and Runway of Dreams.
During the event, guests also enjoyed performances by the West Orange High School (WOHS) band and WOHS student Kefilow Mutume, who sang the National Anthem. Food was also collected for Holy Trinity Food Pantry.
“What a great West Orange luncheon hosted by the WOCC, Lions, Kiwanis and Unico,” said Essex County Freeholder Leonard Luciano. “I totally enjoyed being there and I’m glad to say that I represent such a great town, West Orange.”
Sponsors of this event included Jordan Baris, Inc., Realtors, RWJBarnabas Health, JAG Physical Therapy, Regal Bank, Bederson LLP and Arden Courts of West Orange. Pastor Zach Guiton from Bethany Evangelical Free Church left the guests with a parting blessing.