During Down Syndrome Awareness Month, advocates push even harder to improve inclusiveness, and show just how much potential people living with the condition have. But it’s really the brave unstoppable people with Down syndrome, the ones who keep setting the bar higher and hitting each of their goals, who are showing the world how little they care about labels and how much they can achieve.
1. Artist whose painting is hanging in Will and Kate’s home.
Will and Kate typically shy away from accepting gifts, but they couldn’t turn down a baby present gifted by artist Tazia Fawley, TODAY reported last month. The 43-year-old painter who has Down syndrome, spent six months crafting a bright children’s classic and she, along with the advocacy community, was thrilled when the royal couple accepted her piece.
“In England, there always has been a stigma attached to [Down syndrome], and now that is washed away by the fact that the Duke and Duchess have accepted that painting,’’ Suzie Moffat, director of Heart & Sold, an organization that promotes artists with Down syndrome, told TODAY.
2. Homecoming couple who made history.
Semone Adkins and Travjuan “Bubba” Hunter made history this month when they were the first teens with Down syndrome to ever be crowned homecoming king and queen in Central Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Students at West Orange High School, located just outside of Orlando, said they chose the pair for their bubbly personalities and community members donated their wardrobes, accessories and flashy cars so that the couple could revel in a ceremony fit for royalty.
3. Athlete who proved he’s a superstar.
Owen Groesser hadn’t played all season, but when the eighth grader's coach let the basketball player (who usually serves as team manager) hit the court, he effortlessly sunk two three-pointers, WXYZ-7 originally reported. It was an incredibly inspiring moment that eventually landed him on Sportscenter where he shared his story with the world.
4. Baby who taught her dad she’s perfect just the way she is.
When Heath White –- an avid athlete, perfect student, and FBI agent –- learned that he and his wife were having a baby with Down syndrome, he was devastated, and determined to convince his wife to have an abortion. But she refused and soon after Paisley was born, White quickly realized that his daughter is “just like any other kid," he said in an ESPN E:60 documentary. He now started running competitively with his daughter to let the world see just how proud he is of her.
5. Boy who’s learning to make friends, even if it doesn’t come easy.
Hernán, from Buenos Aires, is painfully shy, to the point that he shirks physical contact. But this toddler clearly is already working on overcoming his fears. Last month, a heartwarming viral video of little Hernan getting used to a sweet dog proved just that -- especially at the 3:12 mark when he reaches out and gives the pooch a hug.
6. Beautiful teen who nabbed a modeling shoot.
Like most teens her age, Karrie Brown, 17, has always dreamed of the glitz and glamour that comes with modeling, but this beautiful girl actually made it happen, KMOV reported. Brown and her mom set up a Facebook support page outlining the teen’s goals to model for Wet Seal and once it reached 10,000 likes, the company flew her down to California on an all-expense paid trip and treated her to a professional shoot.
7. Teen who got a sweet ride from the pope.
When Pope Francis noticed Alberto di Tullio, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome in the crowd at Vatican City, the religious leader stunned onlookers when he went up to boy, gave him a hug and fulfilled his wish to ride the popemobile. "The pope saw him, embraced him,” di Tullio’s emotional dad told the Associated Press. “Then Alberto pointed to the car, and so he brought him up!"