VIDEO: Local Photographer Aims to Spread Awareness for Down Syndrome

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SOMERS POINT - A local photographer, Julie Willson, held a photo shoot with babies with Down Syndrome and the pictures went viral.
“Down syndrome doesn’t mean you’re broken," said Colleen McGuire, parent of a baby in photo shoot.
That’s exactly what Julie Willson wanted to capture. She put an open call for children under the age of five with down syndrome on Facebook and among the numerous responses was the McGuire family. Colleen and Bob knew this was something they wanted their one-year-old son Robby to be a part of.
“It’s an opportunity to get a beautiful photo of our son and be a part of a community that is really him,” said McGuire.
Willson’s late sister Dina had down syndrome. She knew firsthand how special a child with this genetic condition can be.
“I wanted to raise awareness," said Willson. "I don’t want people to look at down syndrome as a scary thing. So I was like you know if it shares on Facebook 200, 300 times that’s cool.”
According to Willson, it was a bit more successful than she imagined. The photo shoot involving the 11 families was shared over 1 million times internationally.
“Each child’s opportunity to get their own photo done," said McGuire "It was very touch because each one of them had their own personality and it showed. For Robby’s photo, it really wasn’t that smile but it was his eyes for me that spoke volumes.”
It’s been four weeks since the photo shoot and now Willson wants to take it to the next level with a documentary of the children.
“I want people to see these kids in action," said Willson. "I want them to see the families. I want them to hear how wonderful their kids are. I want them to hear the stories. Obviously it’s a little scary when you find out the diagnosis. Anybody would be scared not just of Down Syndrome, but anything that’s not typical per say.”

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source based in Millville, New Jersey that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.