Last month, volunteers from the Old Navy Green Acres store in Valley Stream, NY organized a Fashion Show for families at Saratoga, with participants of all ages showcasing their personality through carefully assembled outfits, accessories, and signature walks.
The show featured runway styles that were as diverse, vibrant, and charming as the participants themselves. Several rows of proud parents sat on one side of the runway, offering their kids plenty of encouragement, cheers, and last-minute styling.
“Any time you get parents and kids together to celebrate, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Michael Chapman, Director of Saratoga Afterschool and Recreation. “It makes our participants feel special. The spotlight is—literally—on them.”
The runway models AKA kids who participate in afterschool and recreation at Saratoga in Queens practiced strutting during rehearsals for the show, which featured two spotlights flanking a makeshift runway.
Saratoga recreation staff and volunteers led by Stacey Engebrethson, General Manager at Old Navy Green Acres, helped the kids pick their outfits, choose their signature walks, and just have fun.
A group of kid reporters from Saratoga’s Communications Club contributed reporting for this article, gathering perspectives from their peers as they prepared their walks.
When asked if she was looking forward to the show, one interviewee, Aurora, 9, replied, “Yes, I’m excited because I’m in it! Everything with me is beautiful.”
Another runway walker, Taylor, 9, was happy to tell the kid reporters about her look, noting her fondness for dresses, skirts, and the color blue.
“I’m going to wear something pretty,” she summarized.
Engebrethson, whose team at Old Navy regularly volunteers at Saratoga, recently won the Donald G. Fisher Award for Store Excellence, in recognition of her contributions at Old Navy, both as a staff member, and through her involvement with community organizations like HFH.
Engebrethson first approached Tierra Gunther, Partnerships Associate for HFH, 18 months ago, while searching for local volunteer opportunities for her staff.
“Nothing is more at the heart of Queens than Jamaica,” Engebrethson recalled of first forming a volunteer partnership at Saratoga. “So, it was easy for everyone to get to and it’s just been the best partnership ever.”
Engebrethson and the Old Navy team have been volunteering at Saratoga ever since, often coming up with unique new ways of donating their time and creativity.
The Old Navy Fashion Show was yet another opportunity for Engebrethson and her staff to tap into their personal talents and resources.
“We’re not just giving clothes; we’re making it a fashion show. That’s what makes it special for me,” said Simone, a volunteer from Old Navy Green Acres.
“And the kids, we’ve been working with them for a year, so they know us,” she continued. “Tonight’s going to be great because we’ll get to meet some of their parents.”
After hours of preparation, the participants filed into seats arranged on one side of the runway, eagerly anticipating their turn on stage.
The show kicked off with a musical performance by a mother at Saratoga, who performed an original song, an inspiring rap called “No Limit.”
The emcee, an Old Navy employee with a background in acting, then took to the stage to deliver a spirited introduction for the participants, thanking them and their parents for their participation.
He introduced the kids one by one, and they strutted down the runway in a variety of styles, showing off their dance moves, hair flips, and brightly-colored accessories.
Following the show, parents and kids enjoyed a selection of snacks and sandwiches, as they mingled with other families, volunteers, and staff.
In addition to their regular events and activities, Saratoga recreation often organizes special family events like the fashion show.
“We’ll have food, we’ll have music, and there’s always something to celebrate the kids—the kids’ talents,” said Breanna Battle, Assistant Director of Recreation.
For some parents, the fashion show was their first time attending a family event at Saratoga, and it was an excellent example of the kind of kid-centered family engagement that Saratoga recreation prioritizes and cultivates in its programming.
One parent in attendance, Tanika, noted that while the Old Navy Fashion Show was the first event she had attended as a resident at Saratoga, it had shown her the value of recreation, and she intends to attend more family events in the future.
“I loved it,” she said. “I love anything with the arts and performing.”
She was especially grateful to have had the opportunity to cheer on her daughter as she walked the runway.
“It was amazing! She was nervous, but I enjoyed it” she said. “She did good.”
We’d like to thank the reporters from the Saratoga Eagles Communications Club who conducted interviews and contributed to this story.