Rancho patients strut in NY-themed fashion show

DOWNEY -Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center patients gave their families and friends a thrill last Thursday as they strutted their style during the world-renowned hospital's 13th Annual Fashion Show.The Fashion Show's theme, "A Night in New York", was brought to life by 18 current and former Rancho patients who graced the stage while modeling their finest fashion looks. The show, which was funded by the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, also featured spectacular opening and closing numbers by members of the Performing Arts of Rancho program. Hector "Juice" Duron emceed the show and also opened the festivities with a stirring version of "Empire State of Mind" accompanied by Carlos Ruiz on guitar. Charles Whitehead closed the show with a song he wrote especially for the event, entitled "The Show". "The performing artists added so much to the show," Fashion Show team leader Rebecca "Becky" Bershtel said. "Hector's vibrant personality lit up the room during the opening song, and Charles got the crowd clapping and singing along with him to close the show. It was electric." Former Rancho patient and Don Knabe Pediatric Arts Program member Jonathan Alvarenga created the graffiti art décor that accentuated the New York theme, while Becky made the New York photo booth backdrop and the New York skyline scene behind the stage that put everyone in a New York frame of mind. Rancho volunteer Luis Villegas served as the event DJ, while the patient models' make up and hair were done by Jessica Hamilton, Melissa Sabatucci, LaChanda Foxx and Jann Williams. Rosalbina Davila and Rene Alvarez served as interpreters for the event. When the Fashion Show participants hit the stage, many recalled the challenges they overcame during their Rancho rehabilitation experience. "On December 2006, I went through a severe car accident, which resulted in a head injury and coma," said former Rancho patient Gerardo Garay. "I went to Rancho for my inpatient and outpatient care, and after two years of treatment at Rancho, I had a lot of progression and was able to go back to school and do well. Now I am closing in on my goal of getting a degree in Kinesiology and living independently." Rancho outpatient Webster Ware said, "I want to thank all my doctors and therapists at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. It is the greatest rehabilitation center in the USA!" Fellow outpatient Katherine Robinson told the crowd, "I want to thank everyone at Rancho for their support and guidance through this difficult period. I also want to thank my family and friends for hanging with me and for their constant support and encouragement." These were just a few of the current and former patients who commended their Rancho treatment teams and thanked those who organized the event. The Fashion Show was created by Rancho's Recreation and Occupational ABI/Neuro Therapy Departments. In addition to Becky, Fashion Show Core Committee members included Jenny Francisco, Pablo Vega, Douglas Scott, Jennifer Weaver, Fatima Badawi, Natalia Fuentes, Heidi Dombish and Jenny Lee. "I am here today, five-plus years after my accident where I fell 32 feet," said Rancho Wellness Program participant Abe Anaya. "Brain injury is an almost invisible disability. Sometimes I can't see it either, but then I remember the memory failing, the anxiety, panic, loud ringing in the ears and the vertigo, bumping into things as if I drank too much.

"I'm extremely grateful I'm part of Rancho Wellness because every day I'm gaining knowledge, experience and strength physically, mentally and spiritually," he said. "Every day, in a lot of different ways, I am getting better and better." "I'd like to give thanks to God for giving me the blessing to be in the show, and to all the Rancho staff for helping me recuperate, and finally to all my family and friends that have supported me through my illnesss," Rancho outpatient and Performing Arts of Rancho participant Omoze Osagiede said. "I hope I'm an inspiration to other patients and all people, to show them not to give up, and to stay focused on getting well and following your dreams." The Fashion Show audience heard many stories of courageous, determined Rancho patients each of whom explained how they overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to make remarkable recoveries. The patients spoke eloquently about their faith and about the powerful roles that their families, friends and Rancho treatment teams played during their journeys to more independent and meaningful lives. Many tears of joy were shed and many hearts were touched. It was truly a "Night" to remember. For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit rancho.org, facebook.com/rancholosamigosrehab or twitter.com/ranchorehab.

********** Published: August 25, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 19