HCN News & Notes

Unify Against Bullying Presents Fifth Annual All-inclusive Fashion Show

HOLYOKE — On Oct. 21, students from 20 different schools in Massachusetts walked the runway and acted out anti-bullying performances at a fashion show dedicated to celebrating diversity. The show was attended by 500 guests at the Log Cabin in Holyoke.

“This fashion show has far surpassed anything we ever initially imagined possible,” said Edward Zemba, president of Robert Charles Photography and founder and chair of Unify Against Bullying. “What makes the show special is that we celebrate students of all shapes, sizes, styles, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and physical ability. We make sure that kids know it’s who they are that’s truly important, not just what they look like.”

Jamison Mae Rohan, a senior at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, was presented the 2019 Hero Award, which is given to an individual who exemplifies the strength and spirit to empower themselves and others. Rohan is an inspiration and role model for young people who have been or are being bullied, Zemba said. She wholeheartedly believes in everyone’s right to be treated with kindness and respect.

Unify also recognized Michaeline DeJoria Heydari, vice chairman for John Paul Mitchell Systems, with its inaugural Champion Award. “A champion is an individual who supports an initiative to bring a program or idea to reality that will improve the quality of life for our youth,” Zemba said. “Ms. Heydari is an inspired visionary who saw an issue and took a leadership role to transform it. Due to her efforts, the Neon product line and Stick It to Bullying campaign does just that. She was chosen for her efforts to help raise awareness to this issue and to empower our youth to stick it to bullying.”

This year, Unify combined its annual grant awards ceremony with the fashion show, awarding a record $20,000 in microgrants to help fund anti-bullying initiatives to benefit youth in schools and the community. Julie Solwold, vice president of Corporate Communications for the John Paul Mitchell Corp., was in attendance to award an additional $1,000 grant to Arianna Hopkins, a sixth-grade student from West Springfield Middle School.

“We were excited to combine the two events this year as we get to showcase the individual recipients of the Unify fundraising efforts to a larger audience,” said Christine Maiwald, executive director of Unify Against Bullying. “Without the generosity of our donors, the grassroots efforts to promote the anti-bullying message would be in doubt. We are grateful to the countless businesses who stepped up to support our youth. It’s through their generous donations that we can help families struggling with this pervasive issue throughout our region and beyond. Unify is grateful to Carla Cosenzi and TommyCar Auto Group for once again being our presenting sponsor.”