This article was written by Southwest Station Admin Cheryl Wolfand originally ran in the fourth quarter 2019 issue of LUVLines, Southwest's Employee magazine.
As one runway closed, another one opened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). However, this one was designed for fashion models with disabilities, not airplanes.
Model Shanae O'Reilly 27, & Fayola Delica, Ms FL Plus America 2018Model Shanae O'Reilly 27, & Fayola Delica, Ms FL Plus America 2018Team, value, and respect: These three pillars are the foundation of our inclusive environment at Southwest, and all three were on full display during FLL’s Runway in the Sky Talent and Fashion Show. This dazzling celebration of diversity featured an elevated catwalk straddling the walkway between Southwest’s international ticket counter and baggage carousels in Terminal One.
“I saw it in a dream,” said FLL Customer Service Agent Tia Frosland. Tia, a parent with a passion for showcasing the abilities of youth with disabilities, worked with her Station Leader Tennina McAnany, as well as the county’s aviation department to make this dream a reality.
On June 2, 2019, special guests, airport staff, and arriving passengers were treated to an impressive showcase of vibrant fashion, spoken word poetry, music, and charismatic speakers, all laser-focused on raising awareness for the disabled community. Empowerment was the order of the night and its stars were 16 courageous youth and young adult models with a diverse mix of ages, sizes, and disabilities. Each took turns showing off their best Model Stephen Morgan, 27Model Stephen Morgan, 27catwalk strut in outfits personally chosen to reflect their individuality. “It was a pure delight seeing their excitement, confidence, and sheer joy,” said Tennina. “It was an honor to be connected to this rewarding event.”
Proceeds benefited the No Limits Foundation, Inc.—a non-profit organization that Tia founded to embrace our community by creating activities and events that involve inclusion with diversity, creativity, and positivity in a world that needs to know everyone has purpose.
Tia's son John Frosland, 19Tia's son John Frosland, 19The No Limits Foundation was inspired by Tia’s son, John, 19, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. “John didn’t speak until he was seven,” she said. “He learned sign language and used PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) until he found his voice.” When Tia competed in the 2011 Ms. Florida Plus America pageant she chose autism as her platform. “My son inspired my choice,” she said, “because of his tenacity to overcome.”
After winning the pageant, Tia set her sights on taking her platform to a higher level but was initially unsure where to start. “I won this title and didn’t know what to do with it,” she admits. But after extensive research, she zeroed-in on a niche. “There was nothing out there for youth and young adults with disabilities who want to be trained in the fashion industry,” she said. In 2012, she partnered with a disability center and the No Limits Foundation, Inc. was born. As the name suggests, the foundation is not limited to individuals with autism; it’s open to anyone with a disability.
Tia’s ultimate goal is to help individuals with autism and other disabilities find employment iModel Christine Maciak, 29Model Christine Maciak, 29n the fashion industry, not only as models, but also photographers, videographers, designers, and behind the scenes. Exposure from her fashion shows has already opened doors and created opportunities for several models, including John—who at 10-years-old expressed an interest in modeling after watching his older sister practice for pageant competitions.
Tia's proudest moment came the first time she saw the same boy who once struggled to express himself verbally build up enough confidence to walk on stage by himself. “His fight was much harder than anything I’ve ever fought for,” she said. “His challenges superseded mine.” Her message to other parents whose children have a disability is one of positivity. “Believe in your children,” she said, “Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t.”
No Limits Foundation’s tagline, Everyone has Purpose, is a simple and straightforward affirmation that’s been at the heart of its mission since its inception. “Once you find their purpose,” Tia said, “they will amaze you.”