Two Moms Changing the Way the World Views Down Syndrome
What began as a way for Julie Willson to honor her late sister, Dina Scoppa, became a life-changing nonprofit organization, influencing millions of people across the globe.
In October 2015, Julie put out a call on Facebook, looking to do a photo shoot for children with Down syndrome. Dina had Down syndrome and was the light of their family, and Julie thought a photo shoot of this kind would be the perfect way to honor her memory. Eleven beautiful children gathered for the shoot, and very quickly, Julie and those eleven families became like family.
Unexpectedly, the image of the group of children, dubbed “The Original 11” went viral within days, being shared over 100 million times and being publicized all over the world. Shortly after, Julie teamed up with one of the moms from the photo shoot, Shannon Daughtry, and the two of them cofounded the Down syndrome awareness nonprofit organization called Nothing Down.
They eventually brought in Colleen McGuire, also a parent from the photo shoot, and Michael Hook, a talented filmmaker. Together, the small team has produced 10 projects, including inspirational documentaries, photo shoots and social media campaigns, all of which have gone viral worldwide. They continue to follow the original 11, updating the group photograph annually for Down syndrome awareness month. The small team of volunteers is transforming the way the world sees Down syndrome.
In addition to their public campaigns, Nothing Down provides hope, resources, connections and counseling to new and expectant parents who have recently received their child’s Down syndrome diagnosis. They provide services for individuals from every walk of life and from all four corners of the earth. Their “Blessing Baskets of Hope” program sends baskets filled with gifts and resources to new parents all across the country and beyond. Included in the package is a handwritten letter from a fellow parent in the Down syndrome community and a DVD containing all of Nothing Down’s documentaries, including one that is geared towards brand new parents. They have created an inclusion program, reaching schools across the country that celebrates World Down Syndrome Day and focuses on the positives of diversity.
Their annual calendar highlights the beauty of individuals with Down syndrome. Their Ambassador program includes ambassadors in eight countries and 22 states across America who are sharing the mission of Nothing Down. Their online posts reach millions each week. With several more projects and programs in the works, this team is showing the world that there is Nothing Down about Down syndrome.