Michele Wright has seen kids removed from their parents.
“They’re just shell-shocked,” she said.
That is one of the many reasons Wright organized the Back-To-School Runway Event, where foster children had the opportunity to be in the limelight, flaunt their new outfits and all-in-all have a great time.
Wright is the executive director and founder of GoodThreads, a local nonprofit that provides clothing for foster and adopted kids. But this second annual runway event had many more helping hands: The Southwest Chapter of the International Interior Design Association, Goodmans Interior Structures and HermanMiller all helped sponsor the runway show.
“As interior designers, we naturally have relationships with all these groups,” said Jamie Torres, interior designer with Aviar Design. “We try to do an event like this every year.”
All of the clothing, backpacks and accessories featured on the runway were donated to foster children via GoodThreads.
“Everyone takes for granted that they grew up with new clothes,” Wright said.
Wright started GoodThreads in 2009. As a foster parent of two boys and a girl, Wright has first-hand experience of the difficulties and needs of foster children. Since then, GoodThreads has clothed over 12,000 kids. And just this month, Wright became the charity’s first (and currently only) employee.
Using money pooled from the sponsors, the 19 models and event organizers went on a shopping spree to Kohl’s and J.C. Penny, which offer discounts for charities.
“We were trying to get the most for our money,” Torres said. “I figured a specific theme might be too complicated, so we just decided to look for cute clothes. So the theme just ended up being ‘cute’.”
The shopping trip also took the kids to Target and Old Navy. Since it was also back-to-school themed, the kids picked out backpacks and sunglasses in addition to their new clothes.
“I didn’t want this to feel like a ‘clothing swap’ for them,” Wright said. “I wanted them to be able to go shopping, and have it be enriching.”
On the night of the runway show, a crowd gathered at Playformance and Borderlands Brewery. The event was Dr. Seuss themed, resulting in vibrant displays (and plenty of books). The runway itself was fitting for a children’s fashion show; it was built from colorful exercise mats and gymnastics platforms.
“This is huge for us,” Wright said, in a tearful speech before the main show. “We don’t have a lot of fundraisers yet, so this is very big in our world. My job and my life is to give these kids dignity and an identity.”
The show featured kids from kindergarten to high school, over half of whom were foster children. They strolled down the runway toward a cheering crowd and struck a pose in their new back-to-school outfits.
The entire time, Wright cheered the kids on from the sidelines—either by instructing them on where to pose, or by offering hi-fives and hugs. The crowd wore glow stick bracelets and necklaces and gave standing ovations to every child. Their cheers rivaled the upbeat music playing over the loudspeakers.
The girls on stage gave tenacious and confident poses in their new sundresses, while the boys casually strolled in their new attire, looking too-cool-for-this, while still enjoying themselves. At the end, all the kids came out together for a final walk down the runway. The crowd cheered louder than ever before.
“Dignity is the main thing,” Wright said. “It’s not so much about the clothes, but to show the kids that they’re worth something.”
GoodThreads hosts clothing exchanges for foster and adopted children on the second Saturday of every month. For more information, visit goodmans.com/community/goodthreads or call 888-111.