How This Entrepreneur With Down Syndrome Spreads Hope to New Families
Brittany Schiavone, a 27-year-old woman thriving with Down syndrome and the founder of her own nonprofit, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, is a woman with impact. Her mission is to spread guidance, support, hope and, of course, love to families that have newly welcomed (or are expecting) babies with Down syndrome in their lives. To do this, she creates and delivers baskets of hope to new Down syndrome families, and fills the baskets with resources for the parents, gifts for the baby and their siblings, words of wisdom and love from her parents and, most importantly, her story in her own words.
Brittany’s story is central to her baskets because her life — her joy, her accomplishments — is her message. Every day, she shares photos with her 500-plus followers on Facebook of her life: drinks and appetizers on a Friday night with friends, home-cooking for Taco Tuesday, spinach-mango-banana smoothies as she learns to lead a healthy and vibrant life, and photos of her at work, in a play, in a meeting, or going to see a Broadway show. She hasn’t let Down syndrome stop her.
I met Brittany two years ago, and since then, she has become like a sister to me. We spend lots of time singing together, making oatmeal pancakes or avocado sushi, and talking about our celebrity crushes (Derek Hough is a mutual favorite.) But what most impresses me about her is that, at 27, not only does she know her purpose, but she’s living it. “I want babies with Down syndrome to know they can do anything — really, really anything,” she often tells me. Her work is a testament to that, a reminder that no matter who we are or how we’re born, we all can use our talents and our hearts to make our communities better.
In fact, Brittany has accomplished a lot in her young life. She graduated high school and attended three proms where she danced the night away. She strutted her stuff at two PTA Fashion Shows and walked the runway with her high school principal. Her school photography projects traveled all the way to the state-level in competition. She danced; channeled her inner Kristin Chenoweth in local theater productions; and flipped, galloped and swam as a Special Olympics athlete. And now she’s enrolled in college this fall for her first university-style class designed for students with special needs. This woman refuses to be diminished by others’ stereotypes.
And it is this — her determination and her love and the fullness of her life — that matters. All babies deserve to be celebrated, Brittany believes, because everyone deserves a life well-lived. Brittany is very much the leader of her nonprofit, but I support her with it, helping her answer emails, put together baskets, and attend community events. When she receives notes from parents who are expecting a child with Down syndrome and who follow her story or have received a basket, I’m reminded that the potency of her mission cannot be ignored. “Seeing all your Facebook posts,” one expectant mom of a baby boy with Down syndrome wrote her, “It gives me such joy and hope for my son’s future. And knowing there’s a whole community of people here for me really warms my heart.”
Brittany’s Baskets of Hope is a testament to the power of connection and a reminder that we are all more alike than different. There is no room to dismiss or diminish anyone based on their abilities; we all have a unique purpose and a spirit this world needs.
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