Down syndrome is a life worth living: Photo Series

Pennsylvania’s Down Syndrome Protection Act would protect children given a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Here’s a glimpse into what people living with Down syndrome bring to communities across Pennsylvania and why we must protect more children by passing the Down Syndrome Protection Act.

Olivia – Millersburg, PA

What Olivia brings to our community is a ready smile, a feeling of joy to many who love to see her wherever she goes, whether to church, homeschool, gym class, children’s music class, the YMCA, the library, the doctor’s office, or the grocery store. Even people who meet her for the first time often seem glad to say “hi” to her–she seems to attract people. She will often notice and greet older people or someone who is sitting alone and possibly a little downcast. She loves babies and can often make them smile. She likes to be helpful when she sees a need, such as picking up something someone drops, holding the door for someone, remembering something a person is about to leave behind, helping me navigate the laptop or my smart phone, etc. And she is only 9 years old. She has performed, a bit shyly and quietly, but bravely, at a talent show at the annual Gratz Fair, as well as at recitals and our church Christmas musical. She currently is in cyber school with Commonwealth Charter Academy in 2nd grade and is learning to read at level, and she surprises and delights her cyber school teachers and her mother almost every day! Her brothers and sisters adore her, even though she exasperates them at times when she borrows their electronics. She is a vital part of our family, as are all of our children! We thank God for Olivia!

Zach – Brookhaven, PA

Zach is a black belt in Karate. He is an equestrian and has participated at the Devon horse-show. He is very active in special Olympics and works three days a week at HandiCrafters. He is a productive member of the community and volunteers at a retirement community 2 times a week.

Mary – Harrisburg, PA

Mary is the sixth of seven children, with five older brothers and one younger sister. She is currently enrolled in a special program at a university in Pennsylvania. She enjoys music and singing.

Michael – Wellsville, PA

Michael is currently a Life Scout working toward his Eagle rank. He is an inspiration to the other scouts in his troop and has many opportunities to volunteer in community service projects with the scouts. Michael is a Special Olympics athlete in multiple sports. He is a senior in high school looking forward to graduation and getting a job in food service or horticulture.

Abby, Susquehanna County

Abby greets everyone she meets with a “hello, how are you?” She treats people with friendliness and acceptance even if she is not given these things in return. We can’t imagine life without her.

Devin – Red Lion, PA

My name is Devin. I am 13 years old and I bring a magnitude of things to my community. I support local causes that I believe in like Special Olympics  The Buddy Walk, and Susan G. Komen – A Race For The Cure. I show kindness and like to bring joy to everyone, mostly through dance. During the Christmas season, I look forward to visiting the nursing homes to sit with the residents and gift them hats, gloves, socks and a little dance at the end. I’m compassionate and show empathy to all, including those who may not necessary show me the same in return. I am genuinely myself 100% of the time. I know my way around my community and greet everyone with a big hello and a smile. I’m very observant, independent, emotionally astute, and I give the best hugs. What do I bring to my community? True unconditional love…Me.

Emily – Malvern, PA

I participate in an internship program at Phoenixville Hospital called, Project Search.  I have a part-time job at EBS Healthcare in West Chester.  I participate in a variety of activities with Special Olympics, WCU Clubs and organizations, just to mention a few, I sing the National Anthem at our Annual Chest County Buddy Walk. I enjoy cooking with my mom and my boy friend. I have a loving family and an active social life. I enjoy going out for dinner and am now old enough to legally order a drink. I sound a little bit like a typical 21 year old, don’t I?

Nick – Latrobe, PA

Nick is 22 and lives life in fast forward! Nick’s life is no different than you or I. And he brings to his community all the hopes and dreams that you and I bring. He graduated from The St. Vincent College Bearcat BEST Transition Program.

Jamie – Bethel Park, PA

I just turned 15 years old. I am in Drama club and chorus at school. I take swimming lessons. My mom started a therapeutic riding center, Horses with Hope, just because of me!! So, of course, I ride horses too, and I help groom and tack them getting ready for the other kids. I like the other kids too, and help them with their helmets on and even clean up after the horses!! Next year I will go to the highschool and I can’t wait!! I am learning how to cook for myself, and will soon begin looking for a job. This summer I will learn how to use public transportation. I love my family, my church and want everyone to be happy. I love to sing, dance, laugh a lot too. Oh ya, I want to be on the TV show “Born this Way” and move to LA 🙂 My mom says I brighten every room I walk into and the world could use a lot more of ME!!

Aiken – Pittsburgh, PA

Aiken brings joy to our community everyday!  His spirit and smile are infectious.  He has taught everyone he meets that labels are for organizing not for people!  He has opened the eyes and hearts of so many.  He teaches people that we are more alike than different and that kindness, love, patience, respect, and understanding are things that everyone deserves regardless of their DNA.  Simply put, he makes the world a better place one smile at a time.

Maria – Murrysville, PA

Maria is a bright light in the world and affects everyone she meets with her contagious joy and love of life. To her, everyone is a friend and she draws people to her so she can show them love. People commonly refer to her as an angel, and truly believe it. She can bring a smile to anyone’s face with her genuine friendliness and kindness. If someone is sad or hurt, she comforts them with sincere empathy and is quick to offer a hug and pat on the cheek. She has fun wherever she goes and can turn a boring environment into a party with her cheerleading, dance moves, tickle fights, singing, or adventurous curiosity. People with Down syndrome have been blessed with an extra chromosome. They also have been blessed with an extra amount of love to pour into the world. Our value doesn’t come from what we can or cannot do. It’s purely based on the fact that we’re all equally made in the image of the living God.

Daniel – Upland, PA

Daniel is part of a group called S.N.A.P. (Special Needs Active People), and every year they have a S.N.A.P. Gives Back event where they write letters and make care packages for veterans. This is a picture of Daniel with the care packages he helped make. Daniel has also volunteered preparing hot beverages and snacks for nursing home residents, preparing meals for retired nuns, working at yard sales that raise money to send water filters to Kenya, and serving as a greeter for our church.

Marley – Grove City, PA 

My name is Marley. I’m five years old and in kindergarten. I’m bringing acceptance and awareness to the families in my community. I love to do tap, ballet, Zumba and yoga with my friends, but what I love most is bringing joy to everyone I meet!

Nathan – Cranberry Twp, PA

Nathan is almost 18 months old and was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.  We were shocked and confused at first, having known little previously about trisomy 21. But even in the confusion of those first days, we knew that this little boy fit the meaning of his name ‘God has given or gift from God.’ He has truly been a joy to our family and community.  He smiles and greets everyone he meets, brightening people’s day.  We couldn’t imagine life without him and believe he will continue to impact our lives as well as those in our community in a positive way.

Kelly – New Cumberland, PA

Kelly’s most appreciated and important roles are that of being  sister to three siblings and an aunt to her niece and nephew. Kelly brings a sense of love and acceptance wherever she goes. Kelly participates in many local activities and enjoys being a part of her community. Kelly works five days a week at the Center for Industrial Training. Kelly wants to break the mold that persons with Down Syndrome are any different than anyone else. She is proud to be a member of the Down Syndrome community and often tells others about it!

Wesson – Albion, PA

My name is Wesson and in this picture he is independently showing his Ayrshire calf, Rosslyn, at a local fair. This was a huge step for him this year as he showed her on his own each show. Each person and each animal at the shows are important in  keeping these dairy events running. He participates in 4H and shows that anyone can be a part of things like this. Wesson brings fun and inspiration to our community.

Claire – Pittsburgh, PA

Claire brings potential and change to her community, just as any other child does. Already in her short 1 year of life she has helped to educate and change the heart of hundreds of people who had pre-conceived notions about Down syndrome.

Kaden – Pittsburgh, PA

My name is Kaden. I am 9 years old and I live in Pittsburgh. I am an incredible blessing to my whole family. I love to sing and am a bit of a ham. I love to give hugs to everyone I meet, and I bring joy and laughter to them as well. I have enriched the lives of those that love me in ways they could never have imagined.

Brooke – State College, PA

Throughout my life, I have performed in many drama productions, sung in choirs, cheered as a cheerleader, and played basketball, baseball, and soccer. I currently sing the national anthem at numerous places like Juniata College and Penn State University and act as a self-advocate on the board of directors of the Centre Region Down Syndrome Society. I am a volunteer and participant at a therapeutic horseback-riding center called Rising Hope. I also have three volunteer jobs in my community. But the most important message I want you to remember is how I learned to face my fears. “When love fills your heart, you already win. The race that you run is not where you begin. Let love take the place of fear in your race.”

Michael – Devon, PA

I am a great friend and brother. Not to mention, a born teacher.

McKay – Washington, PA

My name is McKay. I am from Washington, pa., and I bring love, joy, compassion, and inspiration to my community.

Camden – Mechanicsburg, PA

I bring joy and smiles to everyone I meet , and I teach people that being different is no big deal.

Emma – Stoneboro, PA

What she brings to the community is so much joy and acceptance. People in our community have changed their perception of what they thought Down Syndrome was now they know what it actually is because of Emma.

Jenna – Ambler, PA

Jenna is 19 years old. Jenna is a senior at Wissahickon High School in Ambler, PA. She plays basketball, field hockey, soccer, and works at the YMCA. She would like to become a childcare worker, aerobics instructor, disc jockey and she will be attending college in two years. She will live independently with friends and work for a living. She has a happy life and brings much joy to her family and friends.

Ben – Pittsburgh, PA

My son Ben was born in 2007, the youngest of 6 children in my family! Since the day he was born, Ben has been the center of our family as his genuine love and affection is what keeps us all close!

Ben is currently a 2nd grade student at Mother of Sorrows School in Murrysville PA. He has an incredible educational support system that allows his to excel both in the classroom as well as socially with his peers. Ben was the inspiration behind an annual celebration in our community that we call “Clelian Heights Day”.

In 2011 when our daughter Maggie played basketball at Franklin Regional we started a tradition that connected our student athletes at Franklin Regional with the students at Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children in Greensburg. Clelian Heights is a school that provides spiritual, educational and vocational programs for kids and young adults with intellectual challenges. We started this relationship with an annual basketball clinic held on their campus where our players would instruct their players. We then invited their basketball team to our campus to play an exhibition game on our court at halftime of varsity games.

This year marks the 8th Annual Clelian Heights Day which has now morphed into an all school assembly held on campus at Franklin Regional in front of the entire student body (over 1,000 students), faculty and administration. The event also attracts the public who want to come and experience this atmosphere. Ben was instrumental in being the inspiration for this awesome event.

Ben is a daily reminder to anyone who comes in contact with him to how God is using children like my son to spread love and joy in world that is in such desperate need of it. I am proud to stand beside my son and be a voice for him.

Molly – Harrisburg, PA

I am a single father, and Molly is the only the one I have and the only love I know. The words echo before birth in my mind: choice to abort. NEVER. All that meet her are blessed, especially me her Dada. #IAmMyDaughtersKeeper

Angelo – Harrisburg, PA

The youngest of six children, Angelo, now 10 years old is highly valued member of his family, church, school, and community. Angelo is fully included in his third grade classroom at South Hanover elementary in Lower Dauphin School District. As a scout, he is currently earning his rank of Bear and loves to camp out with fellow scouts and extended family. Angelo, like all his siblings, is an avid swimmer for the Palmyra Aquatics Club. His sense of humor, vivid imagination, and strong memory make a lasting impact on everyone he meets. He hopes to someday be a priest in the Catholic Church.

Chloe – Pittsburgh, PA

Chloe Kondrich is a 14 year old amazing young lady who has been doing advocacy at the PA and US Capitols for children with Down syndrome since she was 5 years old. In 2014 Chloe‘s advocacy efforts led to the PA Legislature overwhelmingly passing “Chloe‘s Law” which gives factual, supportive and uplifting information to a family expecting a child with Down syndrome. Chloe signed the Law at the PA Capitol with Governor Tom Corbett.

Julianna – Harrisburg, PA

Julianna is a vibrant 15 year old young woman who participates on the Lower Dauphin high school swim, cross country, and track teams. As a ninth grader she has many friends including those at Holy Name of Jesus Parish where she is a parishioner and participant in the Young Women of Grace study group. Jules, as she is affectionately nicknamed, loves her large family most of all as she lives with her parents and has 3 brothers and two sisters with many aunts, uncles and cousins. She is a highly valued member of our family!


The PA General Assembly passed the Down Syndrome Protection Act. Sadly, it was vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf. There was also not enough support to override the Governor’s veto, as 76 State Representatives (39% of the PA House) and 22 State Senators (45% of the PA Senate) that sided with Governor Wolf. Thus, the Down Syndrome Protection Act has failed to become law in the 2019-2020 legislative session.

These photos were part of a collaborated effort with coalition partners like the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.