Archive for the ‘Featured Story’ Category

Pursuing Your Passions

November 17th, 2020 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

PURSUING YOUR PASSIONS

From Down Syndrome WorldTM 2020 Issue 2 of 4

FROM OWNING A RESTAURANT TO RUNNING A FOUNDATION, TIM HARRIS IS ON A MISSION. THE DEDICATED GO-GETTER FINDS NEW INSPIRATION AFTER MEETING R&B POWER COUPLE SHAMARI & RONNIE DEVOE AT GLOBAL’S FASHION SHOW.

This article was published in the award-winning Down Syndrome World™ magazine. Become a member to read all the articles and get future issues delivered to your door!

“IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT,” Tim Harris, the vibrant 34-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, says with a smile. “That famous Walt Disney quote has led me through my life.”

From the time Tim was a kid, he dreamed of owning a restaurant. After graduating college, he made that dream a reality and opened “Tim’s Place” in 2010. The restaurant served classic American and New Mexican dishes but was more well-known for Tim’s world-famous hugs. Tim became the first person with Down syndrome in the United States to own and operate his own restaurant. The restaurant attracted celebrities like Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Aloe Blacc, J.R.R. Martin, and Mel Gibson, parents of newborns with Down syndrome, and national media outlets. Tim was also featured in People Magazine, CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning, America Online, ABC News, NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, and CNN News.

After an impressive 75,402 hugs over 5 years, Tim and his family decided to close Tim’s Place. Seeking to expand his impact, he started Tim’s Big Heart Enterprises in 2016, hosting charity events such as the Hug-A-Thon for the local fire department. Now, Tim spends his time traveling the world, advocating for those with Down syndrome, and giving motivational speeches. Tim is also a recipient of the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award, the prestigious honor given by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (GLOBAL).
At GLOBAL’s 2019 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, Tim had the pleasure of watching his girlfriend Megan Bomgaars accept the same award. “Megan asked me to escort her on the red carpet, and it felt awesome having reporters ask us about our advocacy together. I loved it,” Tim explains.

That night at the Fashion Show, Tim met Shamari and Ronnie DeVoe, who are known as a power couple in the music industry. Shamari is a platinum artist and actress, best known for her role on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Ronnie is also a platinum selling artist, best known for being in the bands New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe as well as his off-stage career in real estate.

“We learned about GLOBAL and the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show from our friends Jamie and DeOndra,” says Shamari. “The Fashion Show was a perfect way to combine our passions for music, helping others, spending time with friends and making new ones
all in one night.”

“Jamie Foxx and his sister DeOndra Dixon are long-time GLOBAL supporters and an iconic sibling duo. Seeing them at GLOBAL events over the years and meeting a successful power couple like Shamari and Ronnie was inspiring,” says Tim. “I thought, hey look at all Megan and I have accomplished on our own, I wonder what we could accomplish together! TiMeg? BomHarris? We’ll need to work on that.”

From a Solo Force to Power Couple
“The most important thing we’ve learned about being a success- ful couple, both professionally and personally, is to be a strong individual in both areas first,” says Ronnie. “Shamari and I developed ourselves and our careers years before even meeting each other. When we met, we combined our talents and became even stronger together.”

Ronnie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and was always interested in the entertainment industry. In 1980, Ronnie’s uncle Brooke Payne introduced him to the guys in New Edition after they won a chance to record a song with Maurice Starr, a well-known pop and soul music producer. He auditioned to become the 5th member and three years later, they released their first record, Candy Girl. New Edition broke up in 1989. After that, Ronnie, Ricky Bell, and Michael Bivins founded Bell Biv DeVoe. “Their debut album, Poison, sold more than 5 million copies and garnered 5 hit singles including the timeless classic, Poison.” New Edition reunited in 1996 with the #1 album Home Again. Since then, NE and BBD have received all kinds of accolades, lifetime achievement awards, and even produced a record-breaking movie about their journey in the music business. BBD’s most recent album was released in 2017 and the group continues to tour around the world.

Shamari grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and started singing when she was just 3 years old. At 17, she landed her first record deal on the multi-platinum group Blaque, with Lisa Lopes. In 1999, the group won “Best New Artist” by Billboard for their debut album, which sold over one million copies. In addition to her music career, Shamari has appeared in the movies Bring it On and Honey, and TV shows V.I.P. and Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Atlanta.

In 2001, Ronnie and Shamari met at the after party for the MTV Icon Awards honoring Janet Jackson in Los Angeles. From that day on, they were inseparable. Their involvement in the music industry helped connect them and strengthen their relationship over the years. “We share the same love for traveling and inspiring people through our music and performances,” says Ronnie. The couple was married in 2006, and in 2017, they welcomed twin boys, Ronald and Roman. Ronnie and Shamari began to collaborate on music together and in 2018, they released Love Comes Through, their first song together.

When Tim met Shamari and Ronnie, they got along right away. “They were so fun to be around and easy to talk to,” he remembers. And the feeling was mutual. “Tim is an amazing individual with loads of energy, ambition, and laughter,” says Shamari. “His spirit and personality were infectious. He made us feel right at home. I can see why his restaurant was so successful.”

Tim and Megan had a similar journey of individual growth before they met. Tim attended Eastern New Mexico University and graduated in 2008 with certificates in restaurant management. His restaurant, “Tim’s Place,” became famous for being the “friendliest restaurant” in the country and he was invited to be a keynote speaker for and received awards from dozens of organizations including Keller Williams International, Clay Aikin’s National Inclusion Project, Children’s Miracle Network, The NYC Welcome Conference, National Down Syndrome Congress, Special Olympics International, Kiwanis International, Civitan International , and many more. Additionally, Tim’s foundation has successfully raised thousands of dollars for organizations in his local community.
“Tim brings such joy to everyone around him,” says his mother, Jeannie. “He’s always been a big hugger. He makes everyone feel loved and celebrated.”

“His happy attitude brings him from one adventure to the next,” his father Keith adds. “If one door closes, he won’t spend too long dwelling on it, he’ll just move on to the next thing. And that’s what allows him to accomplish so much.”

Regularly attendees of GLOBAL events, Tim met Megan at one of GLOBAL’s “must-attend” quarterly I Love You Dance Parties, where Megan was being followed by a camera crew for the Emmy-award winning Born this Way. Not intimidated, Tim began to court Megan, they got to know each other as friends, and eventually started dating. But continue to prioritize their careers along the way. After several months of dating, at GLOBAL’s 2019 Fashion Show, Tim made their relationship public and official. “I gave her a special necklace, and she kept it!”

Megan is a businesswoman in her own right. Her student video about inclusive learning environments, where she coined her catch phrase “Don’t Limit Me” went viral in 2013. She was later recruited to be cast on A&E’s Emmy Award winning show Born This Way. Additionally, Megan is an entrepreneur, opening her own clothing line in partnership with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and “Don’t Limit Me” makeup line in collaboration with Artpop Cosmetics.

“It was so heartwarming to see how supportive and encouraging Megan and Tim are to each other,” says Shamari. “Tim gave Megan her spotlight as the 2019 Quincy Jones Award winner, and Megan was proud to show Tim off.”

When Tim asked Ronnie and Shamari what their biggest lesson as a couple is, Ronnie said, “When we put our mind, focus, and attention on something we are passionate about, it will manifest positive results. And that applies to not only relationships, but just about everything in your life.”

Shamari and Ronnie were eager to hear about Tim’s and Megan’s business endeavors. “They both have such a thirst for advocacy. They want to change the world,” Shamari explains. “And putting their heads and hearts together, I can’t wait to see how they grow.”

WHEN STARS SHINE

“Our first GLOBAL Fashion Show was beyond amazing, an A+ operation all around. Michelle, Sophia, the Sie family, and the GLOBAL staff were all so accommodating and gracious,” says Ronnie. “It was truly moving to see how much they care and how dedicated they are to making sure that people with Down syndrome get a voice and their fair share of research funding.”

Shamari and Ronnie walked down the GLOBAL runway with Piper and Jacob. “Piper was such a princess. She was quiet, but observant. And she had the most beautiful smile!” Shamari tells. “And Jacob had so much energy and excitement for life. He was a ball of joy wrapped up in a tiny package full of love!”

“Once they gave us the greenlight to go, both Piper and Jacob exploded down the runway like they owned the place,” Ronnie adds. They loved it so much, they are attending as celebrity guests again this year for the virtual event!

“I was happy just watching Megan do her thing from the audience,” says Tim. “I remember what it was like being on that stage 6 years ago accepting my award, and this was her turn. We’re each other’s rock.”

“Getting the Q-Award at GLOBAL’s Fashion Show was one of the biggest honors of my life,” said Megan, “It felt amazing to be recognized for my work on such a large scale and have my mom and boyfriend there supporting me. Seeing all 1,400 people in the room learning about Down syndrome and raising more money for research with Michelle was a dream come true and I would want to do it again.”

The event ended with an impromptu after-party concert led by Jamie Foxx. Later, Ronnie joined in and the two sang together. “Jamie saw me, nodded to the DJ, and we sang a few Bell Biv DeVoe/New Edition songs together,” Ronnie tells. “It was a great crowd, with so much enthusiasm and energy. It felt so organic. And I remember Megan Bomgaars dancing and singing harder and better than Jamie and myself combined!”

“GLOBAL’s Fashion Show is always full of exciting and unforgettable moments, and in my 11 years running this event, that after-party show has to be one of my favorites memories of all time!” says Michelle Sie Whitten, GLOBAL President and CEO. “Our celebrities and self-advocates danced and sung their hearts out, and everyone let loose.”

GIVING BACK

“It’s only right that we assist one another and continue to serve our purpose in life, which is to use our gifts, talents, resources, influence, time and energy to be a blessing to others,” says Ronnie. “Considering Down syndrome is the one of the least funded genetic condition by our federal government, the money raised at this event is necessary for research andoverall understanding.”

“Without Michelle and her team, who knows where we would be in the fight to help the lives of men, women, and children with Down syndrome,” Shamari adds.

This year, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, GLOBAL has shifted priorities to best provide for the Down syndrome community. “Unfortunately, our Down syndrome community is high-risk for COVID-19, so we’ve done everything we can to serve our families, including creating a Down syndrome/COVID-19 Q&A, advocating for important legislation, and providing emergency relief grants to over 140 families and 42 member organizations,” says Michelle.

GLOBAL has had to cancel or postpone many fundraising events and is facing financial challenges. For GLOBAL’s 2020 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, the event will go virtual for the first time. Fortunately, celebrities including Jamie Foxx, DeOndra Dixon, Shamari and Ronnie DeVoe, Tim Harris and Megan Bomgaars will be showing up in full force to support GLOBAL’s important work.

“I can’t wait to reconnect with my friends Shamari and Ronnie this year, even if it is virtual!” Tim exclaims. “I’ve seen them rock a place, and I’m sure they’ll do it again. But the real question is, are they ready for what I have in store?”


To learn more about GLOBAL’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, visit www.bebeautifulbeyourself.org

To learn more about Tim’s Foundation, visit www.timsbigheartenterprises.com


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Everything You Need to Know About The Peanut Butter Falcon!

May 20th, 2019 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Click here to buy the film!! Your purchases will support actors with
Down syndrome.

This must-see indie film stars Zack Gottsagen, an accomplished actor who happens to have Down syndrome, multi-talented Shia LaBeouf, and award-winning Dakota Johnson. As Executive Director for The Peanut Butter Falcon, Global President & CEO Michelle Sie Whitten was honored to present Zack with the 2018 Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award alongside his costars at Global’s 10th Anniversary Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show. Below, check out exclusive photos, videos, interviews, and more.



Read the Reviews:


Film Synopsis:

The Peanut Butter Falcon is an adventure story set in the world of a modern Mark Twain that begins when Zak (22), a young man with Down syndrome runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck. Through circumstances beyond their control Tyler (32), a small time outlaw on the run becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (28), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own to join them on their journey. Written by Lucky Treehouse. Check out The Peanut Butter Falcon on IMDB here.


The Cast:


Shia LaBeouf
as Tyler

Dakota Johnson
as Eleanor

Zack Gottsagen
as Zak


John Hawkes
as Duncan

Thomas Haden Church
as The Salt Water Redneck

Bruce Dern
as Carl


Jon Bernthal
as Mark

Yelawolf
as Ratboy

The Co-Writers/Directors:


Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz at SXSW

Videos:

Dakota Johnson introducing her Peanut Butter Falcon co-star as he accepts his Q-Award from Global
Zack Gottsagen accepting his Q-Award at Global’s 10th Anniversary Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show
Shia LaBeouf tells how Zack inspires him at Peanut Butter Falcon Premiere at SXSW Film Festival

 


Down Syndrome WorldTM Features:


Press Release:

Global partners with local Down syndrome organizations to ensure The Peanut Butter Falcon’s opening weekend was so successful that it triggered nationwide distribution! And the list of screens continues to grow!





Additional Press:


Peanut Butter Falcon
Wows Film Critics

Peanut Butter Falcon Wins
SXSW Audience Award

Peanut Butter Falcon is
Acquired by Roadside


The Peanut Butter Falcon Co-stars: Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen, and Dakota Johnson at Global’s 10th Anniversary Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show
 

Global sending best of luck to models in Second Annual Sea Bunita Sea Bo Mes !

April 30th, 2017 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Global sends congratulations to all the models, organizers, and self-advocates in Aruba for the second annual Sea Bunita Sea Bo Mes!

Two of the models who will be rocking the runway in Aruba this year were also models at Global’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show! We wish the best of luck to Jake, Shawndré, and to all of the other models in this year’s fashion show.

We are honored to have been invited to the event. Global is busy preparing for a summer of advocating and financially supporting research and medical care for people with Down syndrome, which has prevented us from attending. In our absence, President and CEO Michelle Sie Whitten offers words of encouragement and support for this amazing event in Aruba!


Since 2013, Hans Geerman, President and Director of the Fundación Sea Bunita Sea Bo Mes, has been working on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba to change the way people see individuals with Down syndrome.

“We started organizing different events to make the Aruban community more aware of integration and inclusion for people with Down syndrome,” Geerman said.

Originally, the foundation operated under the name Ban Papia,, which means “Let’s Talk,” until an influential trip to Denver to attend Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s 2015 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, where his son Shawndré modeled. The visit proved so inspirational that Hans decided to bring that experience back to the island.

“After the event, we returned to Aruba and sponsored the first Aruba fashion show as Fundación Sea Bunita Sea Bo Mes (Be Beautiful Be Yourself Foundation),” he said. “The show starred members of our community with Down syndrome as models and local business and media personalities as their escorts. The event was a sellout, and the feedback has been positive beyond what we could hope it would be.”

Two notable articles about the current state of Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome research cite the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s pivotal role in propelling this field to the forefront of scientific research.

Appearing in The Wall Street Journal, the article “Down Syndrome Is Thought to Hold Clues to Alzheimer’s” acknowledged Global’s leadership, along with the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome and the national Alzheimer’s Association, in their collective efforts to raise awareness, galvanize scientific interest and secure funding for research on Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. The three groups organize annual roundtables and collaborate through the Alzheimer’s Disease and Down Syndrome Joint Grant Initiative. The initiative funds grants focused on understanding the development and devising treatments for Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with Down syndrome.

In “As Boomers Age, Alzheimer’s Research Picks Up. Will A Cure Follow?” written for Colorado Public Radio, author John Daley spoke with Huntington Potter, PhD, the Crnic Institute’s Director of Alzheimer’s Research, and Director of the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, about his important work studying Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome, including a push to create a blood test able to detect those at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

And while Potter focuses on the genetic connections, his partner Jonathan Woodcock, MD, Clinical Director at the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center, and Assistant Professor and Clinical Director, for the Memory Disorders Clinic in the Department of Neurology at The University of Colorado School of Medicine, concentrates on crucial clinical trials, such as a current trial of a drug called Leukine.

To learn more about the relationship between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease and about Global’s research initiatives in this regard visit globaldownsyndrome.org/down-syndrome-and-alzheimers-disease/

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Feeding Clinic at Sie Center: A Valuable Resource

February 15th, 2016 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

For over 5 years, the Sie Center has been supporting children with Down syndrome and their families by offering a variety of specialized clinics including the Feeding Clinic.

The Feeding Clinic is comprised of several experts in Down syndrome who conduct an overall assessment and provide a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to care. These specialists include a Developmental Pediatrician or Nurse Practitioner, Physical Therapist, Feeding and Swallowing Specialist, and Social Worker. There are times when it is necessary to have nutrition or a lactation specialist come to the Sie Center to consult on a patient as well.

Arwen Jackson

Arwen Jackson

Arwen Jackson, MA, CCC-SLP, a feeding and swallowing specialist at the Sie Center, describes the clinic as an ideal place to come for determining specific strategies and appropriate next steps to assist in safe and efficient eating and drinking. Eating and drinking are both critical issues for children with Down syndrome because they are prone to feeding and swallowing challenges.

“Children with Down syndrome can present with medical conditions that impact breathing, endurance, and digestion. The multi-disciplinary approach of the Sie Center allows families to receive hands on care from multiple specialists in one clinical appointment,” says Jackson.

The feeding clinic takes place once a week on Thursday mornings. They usually see 3-4 patients and appointments last around three hours. Parents can expect to receive supportive strategies and feeding equipment based on the child’s particular needs. Additionally, they will get specific goals and recommendations for type and frequency of therapy when needed. Jackson describes the most rewarding part of a clinic visit as “watching a caregiver smile in response to a successful feeding experience.”

For parents experiencing feeding and swallowing issues, Jackson offers the following guidance as a starting point:

1. Safe and supportive positioning is crucial for the child’s success with oral feeding especially in the presence of low muscle tone.

2. Feeding development is best supported within the context of a typical mealtime routine, when a child is offered foods that match their oral motor skills, and their caregivers pay attention to their child’s verbal and non-verbal communication.

3. Seek help from a feeding and swallowing specialist if you observe coughing or choking during drinking, unexplained respiratory illnesses, concerns with weight gain, overstuffing and pocketing of foods, refusal behaviors, decreased variety and volume of food consumed, delayed attainment of self-feeding skills, or challenges transitioning to cup drinking.

As part of a network of affiliates including the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and the Linda Crnic Institute, the Sie Center for Down Syndrome helps advance the total care of children with Down syndrome by providing excellent medical care, therapy, research and advocacy. For more information visit www.siecenter.org.

Global Receives Generous $100K from Daniels Fund

February 15th, 2016 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Global will launch three new Health and Wellness programs in 2016 thanks to a generous Daniels Fund grant:

• A new Global Dare to Play Football camp co-organized by the CU Buffs football team in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder Athletics Department
 
• A new Global Dare to Cheer camp co-organized by the CU Buffs cheerleaders in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder Athletics Department
 
• A new Dare to Play Tennis camp in collaboration with Gates Tennis Center

048The new football and cheer camps will be held on the CU campus where each participant will be paired with a football player or cheerleader for one-on-one attention, assistance and fun. They will also get expert instruction from CU football coaches.

The experience culminates with a scrimmage on the field during halftime of the home opener at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado, on Saturday, September 10th, where the University of Colorado Buffaloes football team will take on the Idaho State Bengals. It is expected there will be University of Colorado celebrity coaches at the scrimmage as well.

Dare to Play Football 23 The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program, and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.

Daniels Fund Logo
 

The Salah Foundation Funds Global’s Research Program

January 19th, 2016 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

The Salah Foundation has provided a generous matching grant of $187K to support the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Health & Wellness: Continuing Education for Adults with Down syndrome research program. Building on the program The Salah Foundation previously helped jumpstart, researchers at the University of Denver and Colorado State University are looking at measuring cognition in addition to garnering a better understanding of best practices in life skills and post-secondary education for people with Down syndrome.

The core of the program is a four-module education program carefully designed for adults with Down syndrome. Each module will be taught by respected experts in their fields and will provide participants with important life skills over a course of ten weeks. The entire four-module research program, including data collection, is designed to take place over an 18-month period. Participants will be evaluated before, during, and after each module to provide researchers with valuable empirical data about what works best to improve the life skills of adults with Down syndrome. Instructors work with the participants to develop individualized goals.

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A preliminary research module ran from November to December 2015 with excellent results and concluding in various research adaptations.

The follow-on research module, Dance & Physical Fitness, is structured to help participants select enjoyable physical activities, plan weekly schedules that factor in recreational physical activities, and understand basic fitness and the impact on the body. These skills are especially important for the Down syndrome community due to a tendency towards obesity, and because exercise may also help increase cognitive functioning.

The other educational research modules in the program complement each other and provide a range of life-skills training. One module, Safety & Awareness, will focus on how to safely interact with others when socializing or in public. A third module, Communication Skills and Pragmatics, will focus on enhancing social interaction skills, especially peer socialization. The fourth module, Nutrition & Healthy Choices, will provide participants will knowledge about nutrition, meal planning, and how to cook and serve a meal in a social situation with friends or family.

Adults with Down syndrome ages 21 and up are being recruited to participate in the follow-on research program, which will begin on Monday, February 8, 2016 at the University of Denver. Dr. Karen Riley, Dean for the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, is spearheading the research component of the program along with Dr. Deborah Fiddler, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University.

CRESS - BBBY15 - Ballroom15The Salah Foundation is a private foundation by invitation only, that supports non-profits organizations in the United States that strengthen families and communities and advances individuals to become productive and responsible citizens. There is special interest in education, medical research, community development and self-sufficiency programs. In addition to funding the new Continuing Education program. The Salah Foundation has helped fund Global’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Hollywood Ball, as well as the I ♥ YOU Dance Parties, which provide members of the Down syndrome community with an avenue to socialize, get exercise, and become more comfortable with self-advocacy. For more information, go to http://www.globaldownsyndrome.org/programs-conferences-grants/programs/i-love-you-dance-parties-for-adults-with-down-syndrome/

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Be Beautiful Be Yourself Dance Classes at the Colorado Ballet

January 19th, 2016 by Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Celebrating 6 years of providing dance and confidence to children with Down syndrome

The Be Beautiful Be Yourself (BBBY) dance program was launched in 2010 with only 10 students and is a partnership between Colorado Ballet, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In six years the program has served over 100 children with Down syndrome and their families.

The BBBY classes are made possible by a generous grant from The Melvin & Elaine Wolf Foundation and culminate with two students being chosen to perform in the official production of the Nutcracker at the Colorado Ballet.

“You know you’ve succeeded as an instructor and as a catalyst for change when one of our students gets up in front of over 2,000 people at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the Nutcracker,” said Gil Boggs, Artistic Director at Colorado Ballet. “You can almost feel the audience grasping that there’s a kiddo with Down syndrome on the stage nailing their role and inspiring a whole new paradigm. I am proud to put these dancers in the Nutcracker production!”

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World renowned physical therapist, author of Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, and Director of Therapies at the Sie Center, Patricia C. Winders, initiated the program.

The BBBY dance classes are offered weekly, throughout the year for 25 children with Down syndrome ages 5-14 at three levels of experience. Three Colorado Ballet instructors work closely with Winders to build kinesthetic and cognitive skills through locomotor movements that incorporate shapes, rhythm and basic dance steps. Each class culminates with a showcase for approximately 175 family members and friends where students demonstrate their skills and self-confidence.

“PWP - Intro - Piper (2)iper loved this class,” said parent Aimee Guildner. “In our world of school and homework and therapy, it made my heart happy to take her somewhere she was really, genuinely, excited about going. She could be herself. She could be successful. She was happy. I think that, all too often, our kids are faced with trying to be ‘good enough.’ I commend these classes for not making them feel ‘good enough’ and instead making them feel great!”

By Samantha Hyde, Colorado Ballet Director of Education

View photos of the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fall Dance Program!