Spring colors and health care took center stage Saturday in La Crosse at a fashion show hosted by area college students.

Students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse hosted “Project Funway” as a chance to educate the community about occupational therapy between displays of knit sweaters and denim.

“This is one way we can bring people together,” UW-L student Kristin Farrington said. “We can talk more about what occupational therapy is all about.”

Occupational therapists help disabled, injured or ill patients develop life skills. Expertise can range from helping disabled children succeed in school, to guiding an injured patient’s recovery.

April is National Occupational Therapy Month.

Visitors to Valley View Mall gathered around a catwalk near the Macy’s entrance as models sported new styles from mall stores such as Gap, Herberger’s and J.C. Penney.

Teri Herrewig waited in the audience with a camera. Her 15-year-old foster daughter, Cathy Lembke, was about to take the stage.

Lembke’s shyness can keep her from trying new things, but occupational therapy helps her overlook her disabilities and become more active in the community, Herrewig said.

“It’s really a bonus for her,” she said. “Gives them a good self-esteem about themselves, especially being involved in something like this today.”

Farrington is earning a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy at UW-L so she can work with people who suffer from dementia.

It’s hard to describe the job in a couple of sentences, because the field is so versatile, she said.

“We do so much,” she said.

UW-L offers a bachelor’s and master’s degree in occupational therapy, and graduates are eligible for national certification and state licensing.

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