Gladys Knight Performs and Sen. Harkin & Rep. Sessions Receive Awards at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Gala & Fashion Show Début in Wash, D.C.

Supermodel Beverly Johnson, Members of Congress, Beautiful Models Walk Runway


Washington DC. (Nov. 16, 2011) – The Global Down Syndrome Foundation today honored Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) & Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) at its inaugural Washington, D.C. Gala and Fashion Show – Be Beautiful, Be Yourself at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, D.C.  At the end of the night, Gladys Knight, the Empress of Soul, performed live in front of more than 400 friends of the Foundation.  The Foundation’s newest spokesperson—supermodel Beverly Johnson—walked the runway alongside her niece, Natalie Fuller, who happens to have Down syndrome.  CNN News Anchor Kyra Phillips served as mistress of ceremonies.

Harkin and Sessions, two champions for the cause, received the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award due to their strong support and advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities, including people with Down syndrome.  Congressman Sessions’ son, Alex Sessions received the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award for Self-Advocacy based on his staunch support for Down syndrome advocacy and research.  Washington’s most powerful and influential leaders and professional athletes gathered to support the honorees and Down syndrome research and advocacy.

“I have to say, our 24 models with Down syndrome stole the show and brought the audience to their feet several times throughout the night,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, the executive director of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.  “They were escorted by celebrities, athletes and 12 wonderful Members of Congress.  We are grateful that it was such an inspiring evening.”

The professional fashion show and spring styles were provided by newly opened Walishe Gooshe, a luxury brand fashion boutique recently opened in Washington, D.C.  The live auction included trips to Tuscany and Cabo San Lucas, which were provided by the luxury vacation club, Inspirato.

Notable attendees included Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Washington Redskins’ Anthony Armstrong  and Roger A. “Rocky” McIntosh, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), The Washington Post’s Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, Congressman John Carney (D-Del.), Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Miss Maryland Carlie Colella, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), WUSA9 News Anchor’s Leslie Foster, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Sen. Ben Nelson (D- Neb.), Congressman Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.), Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Special Olympics’ Chairman and CEO Timothy P. Shriver, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The 2011 Ambassador for the Washington, D.C. event was Alex Sessions, the son of Rep. Sessions, who is a 17-year-old self advocate and a third generation Eagle Scout.  Alex Sessions presented the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award to his father.  He has won Special Olympic medals in swimming, basketball and track.  Three generations of his family were in attendance, and actively support the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.

This year marks the début of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation Gala and Fashion Show – Be Beautiful, Be Yourself in Washington, D.C.  This event recently occurred in Denver, Colo. for the third year and drew notables such as music icon Quincy Jones, Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx, Foundation Ambassador DeOndra Dixon, award-winning actor John C. McGinley, supermodel Beverly Johnson, NBA champion and New York Nicks’ Chauncey Billups, pro golfer David Duval, and NFL champion Ed McCaffrey.

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education, and advocacy.  Formally established in 2009, the Foundation’s primary focus is to support the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the U.S. committed to research and medical care for people with the condition. Fundraising and government advocacy that corrects the alarming disparity of national funding for people with Down syndrome are major goals for the Foundation.    For more information about the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, please visit us at


One in every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome in the United States each year. There are an estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide with the condition.  Despite its frequency, Down syndrome has been the least funded genetic condition by the National Institutes of Health over the last ten years.

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