article by Isa Magraner

Over a year ago, the TMI community was introduced to an idea which would become Hand In Hand, A Night on the Runway. Current senior Lauren Chu dreamed of organizing a fashion show to raise money for Morgan’s Wonderland, a unique park accessible for those with disabilities and fun for all. Although Lauren formed the idea in 2009, it was not until 2011 that she presented her plan to the student body. TMI involvement would be crucial because volunteers were needed to run and participate in the show. Each TMI “model” was buddied up with an individual with disabilities to walk down the runway together, becoming friends along the process. During the span of 10 months, Lauren Chu, with the indispensable assistance from her friends, family, and the TMI society, ambitiously worked on everything from gaining sponsorships to choosing outfits provided by Macy’s. The result of the hard work was a night full of joy and excitement as everyone witnessed his or her efforts transformed into a brilliant show. The event affected everyone who was involved from the volunteers to the grateful recipients from Morgan’s Wonderland whom the show benefited. This year, Hand In Hand is an Interact sponsored event that not only promotes Morgan’s Wonderland but their recently launched school, Monarch Academy, as well. New leaders from TMI, Elise Notzon and myself, and the Monarch Academy have accepted the responsibility of organizing the fundraiser with Lauren’s blessing, as she steps back and watches the evolution of the show into an annual event more substantial and influential than anyone could have imagined.

One of the most unique opportunities is the chance to be a model for the show. This is not a one-day commitment, but a way to form friendships with one’s buddy over a number of sponsored events prior to the actual show. This year, there are twenty models from TMI who have all been matched with people from either Monarch Academy or RMI, a nonprofit organization that helps those with disabilities live and work. The first buddy day was a successful and fun way to kick off the journey leading up to the finale. The buddies were able to spend time bonding as they experience all of what Morgan’s Wonderland had to offer. The time spent there will be the foundation of the buddies’ relationship as they build on it with future events like the Christmas Dance hosted by Monarch Academy and the reverse buddy day where their students will come to have lunch with their TMI friends and be a part of the community. They will also get to see one another and bond as they try on their outfits for the show and learn how to strut down the runway. It is heartwarming to see everyone get rid of any hesitations or timidity and just have fun interacting as they strike a pose; in last year’s show it was not unusual for buddies to throw in even a few dance moves. Of course everyone admires the gorgeous clothes donated by Macy’s, but it is truly about those whom the show is benefiting.

Everyone involved with the show, from the audience to the volunteers, obtain new feelings and experiences that are hard to forget. No matter if they dedicate whole days of work to prepare for the fundraiser or just a few hours, they will acquire something undeniable. It is often said that when doing charity work, the giver gains more than the receiver and that is perfectly applicable in this situation. Granted, those at Morgan’s Wonderland and Monarch Academy are plenty appreciative for all of the volunteers’ efforts, but it is those same volunteers who are driven by the desire to help others, not for an award or public recognition, but for the personal reward that comes as an effect of their actions. So I implore you to get involved with Hand In Hand, A Night on the Runway. There is so much work to be done that no effort is too small. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Carter, Elise Notzon, or myself. There are countless ways to contribute. Believe it when I say that your contribution will be recognized and appreciated!