On Saturday, 17th September, we officially launched our DIFFERENT IS COOL Awareness Campaign in a way that could not have been more different or more cool. It was with unrestrained excitement that an eager group of children gathered in the school hall of Curro Castle Brackenfell, intrigued by the red-carpeted "runway" of (for most) their very first fashion-show.
As they bravely made their way along the red carpet, each child revelling in the opportunity to let their uniqueness shine, the message at the heart of our event rang out loud and clear - that even though they may move a little different to most, speak a little different...breathe a little different...even "eat" a little different - their hearts' desires remain the same as any other child...to be noticed, be able to take being accepted as a given and (perhaps one of the most important) to be considered worthy of friendship.
While promoting the awareness campaign on as many platforms as possible (which has included a newspaper article and, more recently, an interview on Cape Talk Radio) the essence of our campaign has been incorporated into a short-but-informative educational program which is ideally focused on primary school children. The program lasts not much more than fifteen minutes, includes a short play, a brief presentation followed by a Q&A session (complete with prizes) and finishes off with an interactive game and can be easily slotted into a morning assembly, a holiday program or even a Sunday school schedule.
DIFFERENT IS COOL is not only focused on raising awareness for the challenges differently-abled children are faced with, but hopes to also provide neuro-typical children with the empathy and confidence to embrace difference amongst their peers. Not to be overlooked is the effect disability often has on the siblings of children with special needs and not always being emotionally equipped to explain to friends why a little brother needs a wheelchair or an older sister still cannot speak, can sometimes lead to the sibling withdrawing and then becoming a target of bullying themselves. Having a third-party step in and help friends understand not only that difference is nothing to be intimidated by, but also perhaps the challenges a neuro-typical sibling might have to deal with, could be a life-changing intervention.
And so with a joint-passion for bringing our message to society, our fashion-show kicked off...
The scene was set for our superstars!
Minki Burger from Lollos Fame, who also happens to be one of our ambassadors, opened the event with a few beautifully-sung numbers, bringing emotions to the surface from the get-go.
Next up was PeterG Comedy Magician who had the children riveted to his every move...
...and the adults just as engrossed in trying to figure out his puzzling antics.
PeterG's comedy was just as entertaining as his magic tricks and had the audience in stitches.
After a quick break, it was time for little Nina le Roux to open the runway for the main attraction.
There was no shortage of confidence and "attitude" as each child made their way along the red carpet. Claire Strumpher waves calmly at the camera, completely at home in her newly-found element.
Raymond Kidson had the audience applauding the minute he stepped onto the carpet with his enthusiastic poses and delight in having his moment.
Beautiful Layla Loos, accompanied by little brother, Daniel, makes her way gracefully down the carpet.
While the morning was indeed about embracing difference, the spotlight was not our differently-abled children's alone. Where possible siblings were encouraged to share the runway, clad in their Different Is Cool shirts, as they sometimes more than anyone else are the most genuine advocates of accepting and loving those with special needs.
Daniel Smit and Meghan van Schalkwyk having a practice "run" with Sam
Brothers Connor, Caleb and Troy smartly colour-coded and looking smashingly handsome
The pride and protectiveness with which siblings accompanied their respective brothers/sisters down the carpet was heart-warming and so very inspirational to be a part of. Jade Jansen and brother, Keanu, share a private giggle.
Lovely little Liza Laurie quietly sits and contemplates the morning's events
While the children were, without a doubt, the stars of the show...the talent and wonderful entertainment of Minki Burger and PeterG rounded the event off beautifully.