WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY
By Brandon W. Gruber from California, USA
After founding the 321life+1 Foundation, aged just 18, Brandon has provided life-changing experiences and funding for young people, including disadvantaged migrant communities and those with Down syndrome.
21 March 2020
Brandon evokes hope and opportunities through his life mission to help under-served populations through advocacy, public speaking, and fundraising. Brandon received his Diana Award in 2019 and today will be sharing his story.
I love my life! People try to define me, but I’ll do that myself. March 21st 2020 is World Down Syndrome (DS) Day and the theme is ‘We Decide’. I am in New York for the United Nations celebration via webinar and at my art show. We are a single global voice to advocate for the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome. I believe awareness is the moment I walk out of my house. As an advocate, artist, model and NDSS board member, it’s important that we have a day to celebrate who we are; be myself, be me.
“My friends from around the world are doing so many incredible things and it just shows you that we can be amazing”
At first glance, people try to put me in a box and think I’m limited. I don’t talk about it, I show them who I am. I was told I was too short to be a fashion model. I didn’t listen and I decided to learn how to sew, use my art skills and I was in my first fashion show as a fashion designer and model.
In my younger years, some saw me in a different way, but I always wanted people to see me as a normal kid and know that I’m able to do many things. I love to change perceptions and I never give up. It was hard in high school because as a new student I was bullied and shut out of many activities and classes, but I never gave up and kept on going. I just needed a chance to show that my life counted. I showed them who I was, the real me and I was voted Best Dancer, Most School Spirit and Homecoming King! I decided it was time to help other students who were marginalized like me, so I started 321life+1 Project Foundation.
Photo Credit: Jana Marcus
I raised money by selling my art and sent under resourced students to the prom by buying their dresses and tuxedos, along with the full prom experience. It grew into much more, and since then I have helped over 640 students from many communities to have inclusive experiences.
The art pieces created by Brandon
I want the world to know that I want the same opportunities to pursue my dreams and achieve my goals and give out hope to others along the way. My mom and dad were the first to believe in me and let me know that Down syndrome is only a label and labels are for cans not people. I will continue to be an advocate and ambassador for people with Down syndrome. My journey continues with my high school motto that I live by: Work Hard, Choose Kindness and Be Yourself.
“Work Hard, Choose Kindness and Be Yourself”
Today on March 21st, help me get the message out to everyone; we can do great things if given a chance. So friends, don’t let others decide what your life is going to be.
YOU decide and don’t just talk about it, show them!