My name is Brittany Schiavone and I’m a 27-year-old woman thriving with Down Syndrome. Two years ago, my boss at the local clothing boutique I was working at introduced me to a YouTube video about a group of people helping to welcome Down Syndrome babies into the world. Immediately, I knew I wanted to be a part of this celebration of new life and growing families.
I brought the idea to my parents and support system in my self-direction program, and Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, my own 501(c)3 nonprofit was born! My mission is to offer information, support, guidance and, most importantly, love to families who have recently welcomed (or are expecting) a new child with Down Syndrome in their lives.
As part of my mission, I offer new families welcome baskets that celebrate their child. The baskets include items for all members of the family, including baby items as well as resources and gifts for the parents and siblings. Central to the basket and my mission are also notes and stories of my life and accomplishments, including messages of love from my parents, brother, and friends about what it’s like to raise me or be my friend. I want all new families to know that no matter who or what we are, we all have the right and the ability to lead a life well lived. All babies deserve to be celebrated.
I also want my life to be my message. I graduated high school, attended three proms where I danced with a handsome young man! I’ve strut my stuff at two PTA Fashion Shows and walked the runway with that same young man and my high school principal. My school photography projects traveled all the way to the state-level in competition; I’ve danced; channeled my inner Idina Menzel in local theater productions; and flipped, galloped and swam as a Special Olympics athlete. And now I’m headed to college this fall for my first university-style class designed for students with special needs. No, Down Syndrome hasn’t stopped me. In fact, it’s what makes me, ME!
But the most important thing I can tell you is that I’m not alone. Across every city, every state, and every nation, there are people of all abilities like me doing their thing: living with purpose, passion, and potency. And no matter how we walk, talk, look, or perceive the world, we will not be dismissed. That’s right, we can do anything!
If you are a family looking for support and love on your journey, we’ve got lots of that to offer! Please visit my website, send me an email (I love letters and sending my own love notes back!), or follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram.
Brittany Schiavone is the founder of the nonprofit Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, which seeks to offer resources, guidance, and love to new families of children with Down Syndrome. Please join in my journey or share yours with me!