Photo of autism awareness socks featuring puzzle pieces, down syndrome awareness socks and socks with dogs on them.

John Cronin, Man With Down Syndrome, Creates Sock Company John's Crazy Socks

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John Lee Cronin loves socks. The 21-year-old, who has Down syndrome, is known for wearing colorful, fun and whimsical socks, a passion he’s since turned into John’s Crazy Socks – an online sock store.

To make John’s Crazy Socks a reality, John partnered with his father Mark Cronin, to build the site. “John has been saying for years that he wanted to go into business with me,” Cronin said. “His ideas included a food truck and a ‘fun store,’ though it was never clear what the fun store would sell. In November, we fell into a conversation about his socks. By the end of the conversation, we decided to open an online sock store and to call it John’s Crazy Socks.”

While Mark helps out with the more technical aspects of running a website, John, Mark said, is the face of the business. “[John] came up with the name and participates in discussions on issues such as which awareness socks to create, what to put in our packaging and whether to open a brick and mortar store,” he told The Mighty.

As the face of the business, John also attends trade events, speaks with customers and suppliers, assembles packages, delivers local orders and creates videos for the company’s Facebook page. “There is no ‘make work’ for John,” Cronin said. “He has real responsibilities and works hard every day.”

Since launching in December 2016, the father-son duo have sold over 1,000 pairs of socks and expanded their marketplace from 30 different types of socks to more than 500 different designs. Each package is assembled with care and includes a handwritten thank-you note from John and some candy.

In addition to providing colorful, high-quality socks, the Cronins also believe in giving back. “Our mission is to spread happiness through socks,” Mark said. “Giving back is part of our spreading happiness.” As part of their philanthropy, the Cronins donate 5 percent of the store’s profits to the Special Olympics – a cause close to John, who has competed in snowshoe, basketball, track, soccer, floor hockey and bowling Special Olympics events.

John’s Crazy Socks also sells Down syndrome awareness socks and autism awareness socks, with $1 going to the Nassau/Suffolk Branch of the Autism Society of America (NSASA) and $2 being split between the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and the Association for Children with Down Syndrome (ACDS), respectively.

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When My Daughter Asked About Her Brother's Down Syndrome Diagnosis

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“Mommy, can I ask you a question?” I could tell this was not going to be a simple yes or no question. I was packing her lunch, feeding her breakfast, and giving the baby a bottle. It wasn’t a great time for a heart-to-heart but I saw the thoughtful look in her eye and knew I couldn’t refuse. Kindergarten would have to wait just a few minutes.

“Of course, sweetie. What is it?”

“Is Down syndrome a sickness? Is it good or bad? Will he always have it? If the doctors can fix his heart, why can’t they fix the Down syndrome too?” And she kept going. Her questions seemed endless.

It had been almost a year since our sweet Joey joined the family, sporting an extra chromosome in every cell of his body. However, the diagnosis of Down syndrome didn’t come until he was almost 4 months old. I wish I could say I took it in a stride, but honestly it pulled the rug out from under me. Never — not for one minute — did I doubt my love for my child. But at that time, the future suddenly seemed scary, full of unknowns and struggles.

In those early days, I had so many questions and so few answers. The “hows” and “whys” seemed insurmountable. I finally determined I couldn’t answer all the questions, but I could put one foot in front of the other. So I did.

Each day the sun would come up, I would get out of bed, and I would love my husband and kids. I would make breakfast and get people to school and change diapers and snuggle and play games and just live. And of course, with this new diagnosis in our lives, I would go to cardiologist appointments and therapy appointments and make late-night hospital trips for croup, too. But I just did them one thing at a time, and slowly the questions that had shouted so loud in those early days quieted.

And now here I was, just putting one foot in front of the other, and all of the questions are coming back to me through my 5-year-old daughter. All at once. I had a moment of panic. But then I answered her to the best of my ability.

She was too young to understand that Down syndrome is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Instead, I explained that he will always have it, but I assured her it is not a sickness. Having a disability can be hard, but hard things aren’t always bad. They often come with incredible blessings — and Joey’s life has been proof of that.

I told my sweet girl what an amazing little brother she has (which I believe she already knew). I said that I believe God made Joey exactly as he is, extra chromosome and all, and that there are big plans for him. I praised her for being such a loving big sister.

I realized the biggest lesson I had learned over the last year: I didn’t need to have all the answers, I just needed to love my family and live one day at a time. Together we would tackle whatever came our way. Any questions would sort themselves out in time.

She looked at me for a minute, then got that same thoughtful look. “Mommy?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Do we have any kiwi left?”

Sometimes you need to delve into questions, and sometimes you just need to put one foot in front of the other and have some breakfast.

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Kmart Australia Features Girl With Down Syndrome in Its Latest Commercial

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Kmart Australia features a girl with Down syndrome in a commercial for the first time. The retailer has included children with special needs previously in it’s print advertising.

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This Accessible Hotel Is Staffed by People With Disabilities

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Accessible hotel in Asti, Italy called Albergo Etico is staffed by people with disabilities.

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What I’ve Learned in My First Year as a Mom of a Child With Down Syndrome

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“We believe your child has Down syndrome and this is why…” Honestly, I stopped really listening after the words Down syndrome as the words just continued to echo in my head, filling me with a million emotions and questions. How could this be? How did we not find out prior to his birth? What will this mean for him, us, our family? Can I really be a “special needs mom”? This was how I spent the first few hours of my son’s life after receiving a birth diagnosis.

I spent some days crying. I’d look at him, searching for familial traits and wondering if people could tell he had Down syndrome. That was all a result of my own fears and my being uneducated as to what having a child with Down syndrome meant.

Thankfully, I have learned so much about Down syndrome and what it means to be a part of the Down syndrome family. That’s truly what we are, a family. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met — I believe we instantly have a bond unlike anything else. We cheer on each other, and we share products we find useful and little funny stories about our days with our kids. These are the people we can turn to when we are having a bad day and they get it. We can be honest and not apologize for our feelings, and we are surrounded by love and understanding. There is more love in this community than I’ve ever seen in my life.

And what have I learned in this first year? I’ve learned that my son Oliver will achieve far more than some people may assume. I’ve learned that he fills everyone he meets with such love and joy. I’ve watched him do everything “typical” kids do and began to realize that Down syndrome isn’t scary. I realized I am doing it — I am the special needs mom I feared I couldn’t be. I’ve seen Oliver as that little baby I carried who I dreamed of and waited so long to meet. He is the same little boy who would kick me and make my stomach bounce all over, and I’d laugh so hard that he’d keep moving. I’ve felt Oliver calm my soul in a way nobody or nothing ever has before. I’ve looked into his eyes and seen love and joy and a smile that lights up any room instantly. I’ve accepted that I need Oliver far more than he’ll ever need me.

Baby boy wearing hoodie, smiling

Today Oliver is 11 1/2 months old and we are preparing for his 1st birthday. I have been going through photos of him, and I came across the photos from his birth. I hadn’t looked at them really before, because of the fear and pain in the early days. Today I looked at them and cried tears of joy. I could see the love in every moment, the joy, and the pure bliss. I saw my beautiful baby boy perfect in every way. I saw in one photo a scared mom who only knew she loved her son more than anything in this world. But that mom snuggled and kissed her little boy, and in the midst of that storm, she found her peace in his presence.

Oliver, Mommy loves you more than you’ll ever know. You’ve brought more joy and happiness to mine and Daddy’s lives than we ever thought possible. As your first year is drawing to a close, we are so excited to see what the next one brings. We know you will achieve big things, and we have big dreams for you, my sweet boy. Just know no matter what, Mommy, Daddy, Sissy and Brother love you and will always be there for you. Reach for the stars, my dear, sweet Oliver, because they are yours for the taking. Together we got this. I love you.

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Walgreens' New Easter Store Display Features a Girl With Down Syndrome

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If you head over to your local Walgreens, you may see a welcoming display of inclusion. This spring, Walgreens’ Easter display features Grace Driscoll, a 6-year-old with Down syndrome.

Easter display ad hanging from Walgreen's ceiling, has two children in eggs. A young girl with Down syndrome and a young boy.

Grace is the daughter of Kathryn Driscoll, the founder of Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making advertising more inclusive. “Kids of all abilities love to dress up for Halloween, send valentines to their friends and celebrate Easter with the Easter bunny,” Driscoll said. “Advertising should reflect all the faces that enjoy these holidays and I am proud to see Walgreens doing so.”

Walgreens joins a growing list of companies celebrating inclusion in its advertising. After a viral campaign asking OshKosh B’gosh to feature a young boy with Down syndrome, Asher Nash, in its advertising, Carter’s Inc., its parent company has committed to casting children of different abilities. Gap, Target, Kmart and Tommy Hilfiger have launched more inclusive advertising as well.

“It is important that the disability community be seen in advertising all the time,” Driscoll told The Mighty. “Ads like these tell the largest minority in the world, the disability community, that we see you and we value you as a consumer.”

Walgreens’ inclusive Easter display will be featured at Walgreens locations throughout the country.

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