Kids With Down Syndrome Spread Holiday Cheer in Festive Portrait Series
Photographer Laura Kilgus first caught our attention back in October with her incredible portraits series of children with Down syndrome, and now she’s at it again with a beautiful holiday-themed photo set.
Kilgus once again teamed up with the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI) and a handful of families, and they headed to Big John Leyden’s Tree Farm in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, on Nov. 21.
“The kids ran through the blue spruces and played with ornaments and gift-wrapped boxes, which quickly got unwrapped,” Kilgus told The Mighty. “It made for a really magical photoshoot.” The children went on hay rides and played with fake snow, and then something unexpected happened.
“A lot of other families picking out trees stopped by to watch, and they offered to donate to the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island, which was an incredible gesture, especially during the holidays,” Kilgus told The Mighty. “The kids were so sweet and inspired strangers by just being themselves. It was a beautiful way to kick off the Christmas season.”
Kilgus’ 5-year-old nephew Tommy has Down syndrome; he’s the main reason she decided to get more involved in raising awareness for the genetic condition.
“It was a beautiful sunny day, and the farm was bustling with families coming to get their trees. Our boys loved passing the red ornaments back and forth. Having just visited an apple orchard a month before, they kept calling them apples at first. Mason loves books, so we snuggled up to read the Night before Christmas together as well. Mason is just starting to understand a bit about the Christmas holiday, so this was such a nice way to kick off the season”.
“Laura really ‘gets’ our kids, which is a quality not everyone has.
My son’s photo shoot went a bit not as planned, but Laura went right with it. She had a nicely decorated tree with beautiful red bulbs, and a chalkboard sign with Khalil’s name written on it. Behind that was an antique firetruck. My son LOVES firetrucks! He spent much of his time on that truck, and Laura got some great shots. We had a lot of laughs, because my father also was obsessing about the truck. When he came off of the firetruck, he began running through all the trees in the tree farm, and Laura went right with it! When he finally came back to see the decorated tree, he was so excited to see his name on that chalkboard!
The shoot was fun, festive, and relaxed. Laura allowed Khalil to be Khalil and got all her shots without interrupting his natural curiosity and desire for play.”
“Days before the shoot, my son Joseph kept asking when is my ‘photoshooter’? He constantly told family and friends he was having a ‘Christmas photoshooter’ and was so was full of pride and excitement. His excitement is always so contagious, as I felt the same way leading up to that day for him.
After looking at all the Christmas trees he wanted to go home later and put up our tree ‘so Santa could come.’ He loves everything about this time of year. Now that he is 10, he understands Christmas and all the staples of what Christmas are to a child more than ever.”
“My daughter Katie, 35 and her boyfriend Bobby, 33 were photographed by Laura. It was a chilly morning and we were all bundled up! Laura had a great backdrop a beautiful tree decorated with red ornaments which matched Katie and Bobby’s red sweaters. They were so comfortable there and it really shows in the photos. This was the very first time Katie and Bobby have had the photos taken together. Laura is the best! It is so obvious that she loves her job and loves spending time with our children regardless of their age.”
—Claudia M. Lowe, Coordinator of Down Syndrome Society of RI
“After [my 3-year-old son] Nicholas excused himself to play on an old truck with his daddy, Laura took some gorgeous pictures of Sam. Sam’s eyes sparkle and sing, and his whole body smiles when he’s happy. Laura captured that in her photos. We have some beautiful shots to treasure.”
—Lauren St Amour
All images courtesy of Laura Kilgus / 9ten Photography