Small girl with pigtails holds adults' hand and smiles, while looking off to the side This just might be our favorite Super Bowl commercial this year.

SunTrust, an American bank holding company, has released an ad that includes a girl with Down syndrome and a man who uses a wheelchair. Both only appear for a few seconds, but it’s nonetheless a step for inclusion in the media.

See the SunTrust ad below:

That girl, Cora Slocum, is no stranger to the spotlight. The 4-year-old from Martinez, California, was also featured in an August 2015 back-to-school ad campaign by a children’s shoe company called Livie & Luca. The company picked Cora for their advertisements after working with the nonprofit Changing the Face of Beauty.

Changing the Face of Beauty is an organization founded by Katie Driscoll, a photographer and mother of six, including a daughter with Down syndrome. She decided to take action after failing to find advertisements showing kids with disabilities. Now, she’s a mom on a mission to get companies to include models of all abilities in their campaigns.

Cora was a natural on set filming the commercial, and her mother, Kerri Slocum, says the crew were fond of her and impressed with how quickly they got the shot.

“She has a very agreeable nature and seems to enjoy having her picture taken and follows direction really well,” Slocum told The Mighty via email. “She has a natural ability to connect with people and her joy is contagious.”

Photo of Cora in the Livie & Luca ad campaign
Photo of Cora in the Livie & Luca ad campaign, courtesy of Livie & Luca / Priscilla Gragg
Photo of Cora in the Livie & Luca ad campaign
Photo of Cora in the Livie & Luca ad campaign, courtesy of Livie & Luca / Priscilla Gragg

“The Super Bowl is probably one of the most important events of the year for television advertising — it sends a message to the world communicating what is important to retailers for the year,” Driscoll told The Mighty in an email. “Seeing a child and an adult who represent the disability community included in that advertising sends the powerful message ‘we see you and you matter,’ and that is what we at Changing the Face of Beauty ask for every day.”

Last year another little girl with Down syndrome, Grace Ramsburg, who was 8 at the time, made a commercial appearance on Super Bowl Sunday. Grace and her family were selected to be a part of a one-minute McDonald’s TV ad.

Go here to learn more about Changing the Face of Beauty and Super Bowl ads involving people with disabilities.


To set the stage for a letter that I cherish like religion, I must give you some background information. Before my son Judah was born, I became convinced he had Down syndrome. Despite doctors disagreeing, ultrasound technicians “not seeing anything” and family and friends wondering if I needed help for my anxiety — I knew! Credit to my husband here — he never once wavered in his belief. In fact, he advocated for me.

So when our son was born three weeks early on the cusp of December, nerves cloaked me like an overcoat. A dear friend joined us as one of the nurses in the delivery room. When my baby came into this world, I asked, “Are you sure he’s OK?” She answered with the warmest eyes, sincerest soul and kindest smile, “Yes.” When I was finally able to see my baby, I saw his calm, closed eyes and I knew my son had Down syndrome.

A great deal of pain and fear shared our hospital bed. But it didn’t last long. Only weeks later, I would be sharing and writing and advocating like a momma bear. I replaced pain with education and fear with faith and love. I was reading a book called “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. She had a beautiful little girl named Nella who shared my son’s extra chromosome. She told how on Nella’s first birthday, she was going to return to the hospital room where she was born. As I held my tiny son, I vowed to do the same.

newborn baby sleeping
Judah as a newborn.

On Judah’s first birthday, my nurse friend arranged it so that my husband, Judah and I could be reacquainted with the room that gave us such joy and pain. She met us at the door and weaved us to our old delivery room. As she did, she told us she had a surprise: The nurse who helped deliver both my sons was there, too! She wanted to be there for the revisitation. As we walked and talked, my friend told me how this nurse thought it was a sign of adoration that I cried — that I was so worried for my baby, so concerned about his health and future that tears fell out of love.

But here’s the kicker: Not one of those tears fell in Judah’s honor. I cried for me. I welled up with fear others wouldn’t love us. I sobbed because I thought I should’ve had “the test.” What does that say about me? So, it didn’t matter how passionately or how quickly the love grew. All I could conceive as we walked was, “My God, I am a monster” — until I got the letter.

typed letter on white paper
The letter from Beth’s friend.

After a short reunion in the hospital room, the welcomers trickled out. They left us to absorb all the feelings about returning. As my friend turned to leave, she handed us a bright yellow envelope. Then, just us three squeezed onto the bed, the way we all snuggled just a year before, and I opened that envelope and I read. I read and saw through a different set of spectacles, with a new set of eyes and with an exhale that uttered relief. I was not the horrible person I believed myself to be. The part of the letter that dissolved me:

“From the perspective of those privileged to be in attendance during his beautiful birth, you and [your husband] Bobby and Judah were a perfect trio in that room.

For you see, as nurses, we too have our vault of secret memories that we wish we could “re-do” for the families we care for. And for some, just erase all together. The heart-wrenching silence of a delivery when parents know they will never hear a cry; the indifference of a father who hardly looks up from his phone or lifts his head from a pillow, despite the pleading eyes of his once-girlfriend… only to walk out of the delivery room and most likely his baby’s life forever; or the emergency deliveries attended by NICU staff using every skill possible in order to resuscitate a tiny fragile one, while we simultaneously pray there won’t be long-term effects on this new life… Those deliveries. Those are some of the ones in our re-do pile.”

The part that saved me:

“… Deliveries like Judah’s are a “do again.” Judah arrived to a room spilling over with your love. And I don’t want that to sound horribly cliché, because that love was so essential. I wasn’t lying when you asked me if he was OK. Even if I had the insight that you had of his extra chromosome or was given the benefit of retrospect, I would honestly again answer “yes.” In that snapshot of time he was pink and cuddling skin-to-skin with you. I promise you he only felt love as he listened to the comforting sound of his mother’s heartbeat. That moment was a genuine gift.”

And the part that spoke to me:

“… in that moment, you weren’t sure if the heart he heard beating could handle what you knowingly suspected. It was normal for you to be suspicious of what lied ahead. Of course, if we could have done it for you, we would have barricaded the delivery room door to those unwanted visitors… Fear, Doubt, Sadness, Guilt, and their awkward friends who eventually showed up… Silence and Says-the-wrong-thing. But, as you’ve said before, those bullies had to come in and cause their ruckus and pain, but thankfully their once presence is insignificant now in the greater picture.  They did their job of helping you evolve to boldly say, ‘Yes, I’d do it all again.'”

Yes! I was never indifferent to my baby. I never looked at him with disdain. I was in emotional anguish, yes. I felt sorry for myself, that I cannot deny. But now? Now he is alive and well and I am captivated by the way this little wonder has morphed my soul.

And, as my treasured letter so clearly exclaimed, there was something in the room the day my son was born, something grand.

mom, dad and baby sitting on hospital bed
Bethy, her husband Bobby, and their son Judah.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell a story about a time someone helped you and/or your child when you needed it most. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

When you bring a child with Down syndrome into the world, I believe you are instantly equipped with an amazing ability. You’re suddenly aware of a global underground fitness craze you never knew existed. And it’s everywhere — hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools, playgrounds, theme parks, the grocery store, you name it.

It’s called Jumping to Conclusions.

It seems everyone but you and a select few clued-up people are doing it. And it makes you redden and sweat buckets although you don’t practice it. It makes your heart palpitate and the veins in your temples throb in anger and frustration, wondering what child they’re talking about because all that jumping and concluding does not apply to yours.

When you have a child with Down syndrome, you will learn volumes about accepting difference, and still more about how every child really does develop at his own pace, his own journey drawn by him and no one else. And he chases it. By God, he chases it with his arms trying to embrace the sun, the wind blowing his cheeks red, his feet tumbling over one another at whatever pace is called his own. He chases it with all he is because it is in him. Because he is being raised to understand that if he wants it, if he works for it, it is his. Just like everyone else. He knows he can achieve, and he knows we believe in him and will not let the detractors drag him down. He knows we entirely have his back.

He knows.

Yet they try to break him, saying no, no. Not you. You aren’t. You can’t. You won’t.

Still all the negativity and erroneous conclusions in the world will not stop him, because he is. He can. He will.

Do not dare persist in underestimating him.

Despite what the Jumpers want to believe, the signposts of goals and achievements for everyone in this life do not match one another. They are not equidistant, and they are all too often not even pointing in the same direction. All human roads bend and loop and sometimes wrap clean around themselves before coming out the other end. Sometimes they come to a dead stop and start back up again. Sometimes the paths meet up along the journey, hinting at similarity, the whisper of a reflection gone as quickly as a raindrop dissipates pond water into concentric ripples.

He will rise and the Jumpers will fall. Their conclusions inaccurate, their assumptions flawed, flimsy, lazy. Their expectations of him miniscule. Sometimes nonexistent. Given with barely a breath. 

“But he has a learning disability,” they say. “We don’t expect him to go far.” 

And you reply no. Maybe he’ll go work in a theater company, or perform in a symphony or work in IT. He will go as far as he works to go. The only conclusion you are allowed to reach is that he is the master of his own fate. You and your statistics are not in charge of him.

Here on the cusp of age 4, we expect so much more of our son than does everyone else because we have seen his intellect and his drive and his passion deliver his progress. We have witnessed him think and process and experiment. Great human beings deserve great expectations. We would not dare cheat him with less.

And so our goals for our son are simple: soar. Find your joy and embrace it. Find your passion and deliver it. Find your road and own it. In your time, in your way.

Own it.

We follow his lead. We watch this clever little boy who is taking a little bit longer to stop and smell the roses on his journey. Every day he is fulfilling his unique purpose — a singular and boundless opportunity to be magnificent. Just like everyone else. One day he will look back from his place far ahead in this life and may indeed feel pity upon those who once pitied him. Pity the small-mindedness.

Dare I say I would cheer.

They can jump clear into the sky and conclude ’til they run out of guesses. We expect our son to blow their minds and we know he will — we’ve already seen it. Perhaps they should stop jumping now, take a seat, stop concluding and pay attention.

It’ll be a wonderful sight to behold.

little boy smiling

Follow this journey on Down in Front, Please.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

Madeline Stuart has done it again.

The world-famous model with Down syndrome is in the habit of stunning us all. This time she’s the star of a BuzzFeed video where she rocks six different Disney-inspired looks, complete with hair, make up and outfit.

Stuart looks gorgeous in everything from Rapunzel’s braid to Mulan-style bangs.

Check out Stuart’s Disney-inspired looks in the video below: 

Stuart can now add being a BuzzFeed video star to her long list of accomplishments that includes contracts with brands Manifesta and Living Dead Clothing, being the face behind the GlossiGirl Cosmetics “Beauty Is…” campaign, owning the catwalk during New York Fashion Week, having a one-of-a-kind doll made after her and launching a handbag line.

She doesn’t worry about what other people think. She just believes in herself,” Stuart’s mother, Rosanne Stuart, told The Mighty in August. “She has no hesitation, no hang ups and she doesn’t judge anybody.”

The release of the video comes on the heels of Stuart’s announcement last week that she’ll once again be returning to the runway for New York Fashion Week on Feb. 15. We can’t wait to see all that she has in store for us.

To keep up with Stuart on her many adventures, follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

A reality TV star is being sued after sharing an offensive meme featuring a girl with Down syndrome.

Valentin Chmerkovskiy, a dancer on the reality show “Dancing With the Stars,” came under fire earlier this month after posting a meme, which has since been removed, on his public Facebook page. The meme read, “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse,” and it showed a picture of a child who turns out to have Down syndrome.

offensive meme featuring a girl with Down syndrome

Her name is Skylar and she’s from Robertson County, Tennessee, WKRN reported. She is now 16 but was much younger at the time the photo was taken, maybe nine or 10 years old.

She and her family are suing for defamation, emotional distress and invasion of privacy, seeking $6 million from Chmerkovskiy, $600k from the person who took the photo and $6 million from CBS, who also shared the photo, according to TMZ. They say that the photo, which was made into a meme with the caption “Everything wrong with America” in 2014, resurfaced and went viral when Chmerkovskiy shared it, which was devastating to the family.

  The family’s ordeal began after her Skylar’s sister, Harley Eden, saw it online earlier this month and realized it was Skyler, WKRN News reported. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” Harley Eden, Skyler’s sister, told the outlet. “[It]makes me wonder what kind of people are out there. It makes me sick.” Chmerkovskiy’s didn’t mention Down syndrome at all in his post. His caption read:
I am truly sorry for the lack of sensitivity… but on some level I have to agree. Raising a child is the hardest thing in the world, I know, but being negligent when it comes to their nutrition is a crime. The lifelong obstacles and health issues you place on your child because of it can be devastating moving forward in their life. You’re handicapping your kid, and they’re defenseless, they don’t know better, that’s why you’re there… anyway I’m just a childless preacher, but here’s some food for thought. #‎nopunintended
The Facebook post garnered hundreds of likes and shares but has later removed. Chmerkovskiy later apologized for the offense on Facebook, but then continued to defend his position and speak about childhood obesity on his social media. “I am truly sorry for the lack of sensitivity … but on some level I have to agree,” Chmerkovskiy wrote, going on to explain how he thought some parents were “handicapping” their kids by allowing them to become obese, the New York Daily News reported. Skylar’s mother told WKRN News her daughter has battled with her weight since the age of four and now attends a weight management clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Adults with Down syndrome are more likely to be obese than those without the condition, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. It’s often the result of untreated hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Get more on the story from the video below:

The Mighty reached out to Chmerkovskiy for comment but are yet to hear back. 

I’m currently educating my daughter Zoey at home, and recently I called a learning center that offers enrichment classes for homeschoolers. I was told there were spaces available. I was so excited, as this place is usually full. I decided to ask if they accept children with special needs, and it all went downhill from there.

You see, my daughter has Down syndrome. Two words, a diagnosis, that means she has an extra copy of chromosome 21. Along with that extra chromosome comes some challenges that the rest of us may not experience. Each person with Down syndrome is unique, just like the rest of us. It’s not possible to know how a child behaves or what challenges they face strictly by the fact that they have Down syndrome. So you can imagine how I felt when this establishment said, “We aren’t equipped for Down syndrome.”

little girl wearing glasses

“We aren’t equipped.” The words continue to replay in my mind, and now I have questions I was too shocked to think of in that moment. But at this point, the questions don’t matter. What matters is that we live in a world where people still hear a diagnosis and stop. That’s the end. They have a picture in their mind and are unable, or unwilling, to take a moment to learn. How can anyone know they aren’t equipped without knowing what is needed? I believe every child should be given a chance.

girl holding blue umbrella

My daughter is amazing! Of course, I’m her mom and may be biased just a bit, but anyone who has taken the time to know her says the same. She loves “Frozen,” she loves to dance and sing and she spends tons of time coloring and playing with her dolls. She adores her siblings, loves us (her parents) and is constantly talking about her friends. She has the power to light up a room and a smile that beams, accentuating her hazel eyes and sweet little face.

Yes, Zoey has Down syndrome and she does face some challenges, but should that mean she has to miss out? I don’t think so. I believe she, and all children, deserve a chance. A chance to learn and have fun, a chance to meet new friends and teachers, and especially a chance to be known and seen for who they are.

young girl raising her arms

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected moment with a teacher, parent or student during your (or your loved one’s) school year. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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