ATLANTA - On her 24th birthday, Emily Bowman is at London Trading Company in Buckhead for a final pre-fashion show fitting. The owner, Madeleine Brumby, noticed something about Bowman. She may be the model, but the young woman makes you feel like the star.
"I have not experience that many compliments in one series from a person," says Brumby. "I would like to have her around for confidence-boosting all the time. She's immediately was like, ' I like you!' And I was like, 'Oh great. Thank you!'
On Friday, Bowman will get to see how many people like her, in front of a crowd of 400 that will gather at Shepherd Center's gym.
Therapist Patty Antcliff says Bowman is one of 20 current and former young Shepherd patients picked to roll and walk the catwalk in Project Rollway.
"So the patients kind of wait back here in anticipation. And so it's a great time to be like, 'You are beautiful, and you're going to do fantastic!' says Antcliff.
Emily Bowman can't wait,
"I'm excited about trying to not be shy about all these people watching me," she says.
It's been 4 years since the former Kennesaw State University student was hit and critically injured by a drunk driver while walking with friends in Athens.
Debbie Bowman's only child came to Shepherd Center with a traumatic brain injury.
"She was unable to do anything at all for herself. Nothing," recalls Bowman. "She had a feeding tube, she couldn't communicate with us. So we were just grasping at anything and everything we could get going."
Doctors told her every brain injury is different. No two are alike. For Emily, it meant not speaking a word for 14 months. She had to re-learn even the most basic tasks, guided and pushed by the Shepherd Center team. She says she'll be thinking about them -- when she walks the runway.
"Because they have really helped me to walk and not use my wheelchair as much anymore. And everywhere I go now, I walk with my cane," says Emily.
Getting Emily back on her feet is a work in progress. Project Rollway funds programs to help Shepherd Center's youngest patients, many still teens.
"A lot of time we'll pick kids that we see are struggling with their self-image and we'll specifically put them in the show," says Antcliff. "Trying to help to show them there is life after injury, there is hope for you."
Emily hopes to walk the runway without her cane. She's even planned out her signature supermodel wave.
"And just to let you know, I will be standing, and I'll go like this."