Meghan Cawley, 10, of Medina, was beaming as brightly as any of the lights on her as she walked the runway in Hollywood.
Meghan, who has congenital hydrocephalus, epilepsy and severe scoliosis, was invited to model shoes that make it easier for kids like her who wear ankle braces, technically called ankle foot orthotics (AFOs).
A 4th grader at Cloverleaf Elementary School, Meghan has motor delays and everyday activities, like getting dressed, are more challenging for her. A few years ago, Meghan’s mom, Sarah, received a tip that the shoes under the BILLY Footwear brand are ideal because they zip all the way around – so no laces to tie – and fit over AFOs.
More recently, Sarah learned through a favorite blog for parents of children with special needs of an organization called “Runway of Dreams,” founded by a mom who wanted to call attention to adaptive fashion.
A few months after sending an email with photos of Meghan, Sarah got a response: an invitation for Meghan to walk the runway in Hollywood. She would be modeling BILLY Footwear on behalf of the adaptive shoe division of Zappos.
“Most of these kids who do this have agents and millions of followers on Instagram and somehow they picked Meghan based on our photos,” said Sarah. “It was exciting.”
After some fundraising for the trip, the family boarded a plane on March 6. Landing in Los Angeles, they went straight to the fitting for the show.
“It was everything you would see in a movie,” said Sarah. “Seamstresses were fitting Meghan, customizing the clothes to her dimensions. We were just smiling the whole time – it felt very Hollywood.”
Sarah said perhaps the best thing about the experience was meeting other families with kids from all over the country and with all different abilities and body types – kids in wheelchairs and with prosthetics but runway models just the same. Meghan met a friend, Autumn, at the show. They have a lot of the same interests and plan to stay in touch.
“The kindness, the inclusion and the diversity that was there was just amazing,” said Sarah.
After a little sightseeing and a day at Disneyland, it was time to head home.
Given her special needs and the fact that she has a big spine surgery coming up this year, Sarah wants to give Meghan every opportunity to shine and show off her personality.
Dr. Ian Rossman, a pediatric neurologist who cares for Meghan, agreed.
“I’m so proud of Meghan and her family for embracing this unique opportunity,” he said. “Meghan was not just modeling shoes, she was embodying the value of inclusion of children with special needs in all activities that make childhood fun and enriching.”
A video of the runway show can be viewed here: Runway of Dreams Los Angeles 2022 Fashion Revolution – YouTube