As Christine S. Maiwald, executive director of Unify Against Bullying, prepares to retire at the end of October, she will be able to see the organization’s student fashion show celebrating true diversity.
On Oct. 26, high school students of all shapes, sizes, styles, ethnicity and physical abilities from schools in Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut will present the show they created as well as emotional, thought-provoking performances.
The streamed event will be free, but donations will be accepted.
“The event this year is especially poignant for all as Christine Maiwald, one of the founding board members and the executive director for the past three years, will be retiring on Oct. 30,” said Sarah Goff, president of the organization.
The hybrid fashion show will present models via video and highlight clothing sponsors. It will be broadcast live from the Log Cabin in Holyoke with only Susanna Zemba and Michael Sakey on stage introducing the models and performers’ videos.
Viewers can access the event through Facebook Live.
Between 20 and 30 students who volunteered will participate in the event; they are high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Original performances will highlight bullying trends that the students have raised, centering around social media and cyberbullying.
An online auction will online auction will offer such items as a studio photography session with 16 x 24 wall canvas portrait ($1,210 value), power washing house, driveway ($750 value) and an airplane ride ($450 value).
Delaney’s Market is offering a Unify meal package that can be picked up curbside at four locations.
Unify Against Bullying seeks to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity.
“I am honored to have been asked to be one of the founding board members and to serve as executive director for the organization,” Maiwald said. “Most people talk about wanting to make a change, however the Zemba family of Robert Charles Photography in East Longmeadow stepped up and made it happen. Their vision to help young people know that they have value and that they should treat one another with kindness and acceptance. Their message to ‘celebrate’ our differences has helped many young people since its (Unify Against Bullying) inception in 2016.”
She said she has been “part of an awesome Unify team consisting of students, families, board of directors, educators, the business community and volunteers who are proud of what we have accomplished in four short years.”
These accomplishments include: high school students presenting anti-bullying education to students in local schools, summer camps and youth programs; creating and implementing a Unify club pilot program in a high school in Springfield; partnering with community organizations such as Shriner’s Hospital, Jewish Community Center, The Chicopee Boys and Girls Club and The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department; and raising funds through community events to award 48 micro-grants to individuals and organizations, especially school-age youth, who understand the bullying epidemic and who have committed to making Unify’s mission a part of their initiative.
In addition, Unify Against Bullying had a selfie challenge, leveraging social media to bring awareness to its mission. “Since its inception, the selfie challenge has made its way around the world. The 2016 goal was to reach 50 states, 50 countries in 50 days. Not only did we successfully reach all 50 states, we also had participants in 56 countries in that 50-day period,” Maiwald said. “This exposure helped bring national and international awareness to the silence associated with bullying.”
For information, visit UnifyAgainstBullying.org, or call 413-304-0668.