For Mindy Scheier, the founder of Runway of Dreams, making a difference for the muscular dystrophy community means thinking both long and short term.
Since her son Oliver was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, she has channeled her energy into finding a cure. Together with her family, she has helped raise more than $600,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association to fund research grants. But she knows pharmaceutical breakthroughs can take decades.
Runway of Dreams (RoD) helps MDA families “here and now.” A nonprofit organization working with the fashion industry to adapt mainstream clothing so that it is wearable for all, RoD has inspired – and been inspired by – MDA families.
“Though our work is focused on making adaptive clothing available to everyone, it’s been an amazing gift to see how RoD is empowering kids with diseases like spinal muscular atrophy and muscular dystrophy,” says Scherer. “Being able to wear the same clothes as their non-disease-impacted friends helps build self-esteem and confidence. Plus being able to dress independently means greater freedom and helps caregivers, too.”
The path to RoD’s collaboration with iconic American fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger, which resulted in a capsule collection of 22 pieces that nearly sold out within a week, wasn’t always easy.
“The biggest challenge has been educating the fashion industry about the market potential,” says Scheier. “I encountered a lot of people who believed that if you have a disability, you don’t care how you look or spend money on clothes.”
Scheier knows firsthand how wrong this is. The idea to create mainstream adaptive clothing was inspired by her son, Oliver, who wanted to wear jeans to school like his friends. Scheier knew traditional offerings wouldn’t accommodate Oliver’s leg braces and would make doing everyday things like going to the bathroom on his own impossible. So she modified Oliver’s clothes herself.
But she knew the opportunity to help others was huge. “There are lots of other families who could benefit from this,” Scheier said. She was right. The collaboration has received widespread media attention and praise from outlets like People, Buzzfeed, Parents.com and Time.
In the beginning stages of RoD, Scheier worked closely with Erin Dresnick, Executive Director of the MDA local office of greater New York City, to involve MDA families in market research to learn more about the clothing challenges they experienced. MDA families also worked as fit models and starred in videos for the clothing line.
“MDA is our home,” says Scheier. “Being involved with MDA means never feeling alone. It’s so important to have a community, and MDA offers tremendous support at every level.”
How does Oliver feel about the collection, given his role in its creation? “He is just so excited that others will have access to the same clothes he’s wearing,” Scheier says.
What’s next for Scheier? More collaborations, more awareness and more opportunities for kids and adults living with diseases that impact mobility and strength to feel valuable, beautiful and included. “We will not stop until this is the new normal in the fashion industry and there are clothes for every body and every budget.”
Check out the amazing video celebrating the collaboration, featuring several models from MDA families: