SALISBURY — Partners in Learning is bringing back its special needs fashion show in person in the great outdoors this year.
Just As I Am was virtual last year, but this year’s Sept. 14 program will bring people together again and at the freshly minted Bell Tower Green.
Work on the new park is wrapping up and the nonprofit saw it as an opportunity to hold the show safely and in a beautiful environment.
“If it was indoors we would absolutely have canceled it,” PIL Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt said children with special needs are more susceptible to COVID-19 and noted kids under 12 cannot get vaccinated.
The show will be outdoors with social distancing, and volunteers will be required to wear masks.
The models will use the park’s stage as a runway. Honeycutt said just getting to spend an evening in the park is part of the event, which gets better each year.
“This is a special year, and we’re doing it in the very center of our community,” Honeycutt said.
A parent will be able to walk with each child as well so they can also feel special for the evening.
Early Intervention Director Cassie Karriker said the show allows the community to learn more about kids and families with special needs and their daily struggles.
“It brings all of those things to light that many years ago used to not be talked about,” Karriker said. “I’m excited that I get to be part of an event that not only makes these families feel special, but also helps educate our community on how to be inclusive of all people.”
Development Director Amy Vestal said many kids with special needs thrive on routine and the pandemic interrupted those. The nonprofit has tried to keep children from going without services and meet their needs amid all the uncertainty. Funds raised at the show will go to all that PIL provides for families, including scholarships for early education services.
The organization employs a family support specialist, early intervention specialist, developmental therapists and a behavioral specialist who all began providing telehealth visits for families during the pandemic. PIL also provides home developmental therapy in 16 counties.
Vestal said the nonprofit also began mailing families materials and created pickup zones so families could get the physical resources they needed for their kids during the pandemic as well.
The event will also be live streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
The show is held in honor of Jacob Usher, an alumnus who passed away in 2015.
Donations can be made by mailing a check to 2386 Robin Road, Salisbury, NC 28144 or by visiting epartnersinlearning.org. Tickets to the event can also be purchased on the website.