Fashion Week, the premier event in the American fashion industry, is a must-attend event for thousands of designers, buyers, retailers and members of
by Denise H. McClinton

Fashion Week, the premier event in the American fashion
industry, is a must-attend event for thousands of designers,
buyers, retailers and members of the national and international
press. Every year in February, these fashionistas converge on New
York City to seek out the latest in fashion trends and styles. But
this year they got an extra surprise.

During 2007 Fashion Week, a group of women who spend their lives
in wheelchairs modeled designer outfits and custom-designed
wheelchairs at Rolling with Style, a fundraising fashion event to
benefit research into spinal cord injury and women's health

The full-scale runway show and celebrity-filled spectacular,
held at Manhattan's Cipriani Feb. 6, was the brainchild of
Discovery Through Design, an organization celebrating the success
of women with spinal cord injuries who serve as role, or in this
case, “roll” models.

Hosted by Lesley Stahl of CBS' “60 Minutes,” the
event drew more than 500 attendees and raised nearly $1 million for
the Christopher Reeve Foundation, The Miami Project to Cure
Paralysis and The Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers

DTD was founded by a group of women in wheelchairs including
Marilyn Hamilton, co-founder of Quickie Designs and vice president
of consumer relations for Sunrise Medical, along with Wendy
Crawford, Ashley Lauren Fisher and Julia Stockton Dorsett.

“The four of us came together because we all had a role in
this project,” explains Hamilton. “We are a group of
two women in manual wheelchairs and two women in power wheelchairs
believing that women with spinal cord injuries are doing more than
surviving; we are really thriving in today's society, going after
our dreams and doing everything that we like.”

Crawford, a former model, is the developer of, an informational Web site for
women with disabilities. Fisher is an actress and owner of Pazzo
Pazzo restaurant in Morristown, N.J. And Dorsett brings a focus on
fitness to the group as a professional wheelchair tennis player who
represented the United States at the 2004 Paralympics and World
Team Cup.

Believing that women in wheelchairs have been overlooked for too
long, DTD conducted a nationwide search for roll models to honor at
the Rolling with Style event. Their goal was to find women in
wheelchairs who are making a valuable contribution to the world
while living life to the fullest.

“We asked each entrant to send a bio and to list what
their contributions have been as well as what their spinal cord
injury meant to them,” says Hamilton. “We received so
many responses and were surprised at the number of women, including
quadriplegics with high-level injuries, who wanted to be [involved
in] this project.”

A panel of judges selected four winners:

Jenny Smith, 33, of Louisville, Ky., sustained a complete C6-7
spinal cord injury when she was 6 while practicing gymnastics.
Since then, she has earned two degrees in psychology and now spends
countless hours working with The Mobility Project, where she has
helped distribute more than 1,000 wheelchairs to disabled people in
Mexico, Costa Rica and Afghanistan.

  • Melissa Holley, 24, of Nashville, Tenn., was paralyzed in a car
    accident while at college. She was the first patient to undergo an
    experimental spinal cord treatment in Tel Aviv and now is working
    to bring the procedure to the United States. Holley, who earned a
    master's degree in organizational management from Vanderbilt
    University, received an honorable mention in Glamour
    magazine's “Top Ten College Women of 2004” and is a
    sought-after speaker.

  • Michele Boardman, 19, of Harleysville, Pa., has muscular
    dystrophy and has been unable to walk since age 12. She earned a
    four-year academic scholarship to Arcadia University, where she is
    preparing for a career in pediatric genetic counseling.

  • Rosemarie Rossetti, 52, of Columbus, Ohio, was paralyzed in a
    freak accident when a tree fell on her as she was bicycling. The
    founder of her own consulting company, Rossetti travels the country
    speaking about the struggle to overcome her injury, writes a
    syndicated newspaper column and is author of the book Take Back
    Your Life

    DTD's founders partnered with well-known fashion designers
    — including Nicole Miller, Baby Phat's Kimora Lee Simmons,
    St. John, Thom Browne, Zang Toi, Lloyd Klein, Stephan Cori and Marc
    Bouwer — to honor the four winners, who modeled fashion
    ensembles and custom-designed Quickie wheelchairs.

    “These women represent what we aspire for all women in
    wheelchairs, that they thrive, not just survive,” says
    Hamilton, who adds that DTD is as much about awareness as anything

    “It is not just about a handout. We want to create the
    opportunity for those who are not as bold by breaking down barriers
    now to pave the way for others to get on with their lives,”
    she says. “The only way we are going to get there is through
    awareness, recognition, changing attitudes and providing skill sets
    to those with disabilities so they can participate in