On Saturday night Grammy-winning recording artists Queen Latifah and Jamie Foxx joined Hilary Swank, Matt Dillon, John C. McGinley, Amanda Booth, Peyton Manning and more in Denver, Colorado at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s 2016 Be Beautiful Be Yourself fashion show. The fun and inspirational evening featured celebs taking the runway with models with Down Syndrome to help raise awareness and funds. In total, over $2.1 million was raised!
Jamie Foxx’s younger sister DeOndra Dixon has Down Syndrome. She was the 2011 foundation Ambassador and 2009 recipient of the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocate Award, which her Oscar-winning brother earned himself the next year in 2012. The crowd cheered and applauded when she happily strutted the runway with Queen Latifah this year.
For Foxx, being at the event was all about supporting DeOndra and raising funds for an important cause. In a red-carpet interview, he said, “We’re all here for DeOndra, man. DeOndra lives with us. This is her little crew. They’ve been partying, hanging and having a good time. It means the whole world to see her happy and to see her be independent and be able to do her thing.”
Queen Latifah stressed the importance of the research funds would support. She said, “The condition of Down Syndrome is one of the least funded and it needs this research. Its needs this attention and it needs the support and that’s what this organization does and that’s a great thing to have happen and so we’re here to support.”
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports Down Syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 691 live births. There are an estimated 6037 new cases of Down Syndrome each year.
Per the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the cause of Down Syndrome is unknown. However, it is identified as a genetic condition known as trisomy 21 in which a person is born with three copies of chromosome 21. The presence of an extra copy of the chromosome affects human development in many ways, protecting people with Down syndrome from developing some diseases, such as most tumors, while predisposing them to others, such as autoimmune disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons for this different ‘disease spectrum’ in the population with Down syndrome are unknown. Elucidating the molecular basis of this phenomenon could advance our understanding of many diseases affecting the typical population.
Global co-founder, President and CEO Michelle Sie Whitten’s daughter with Down Syndrome inspired her to launch the foundation. She dreams of ending the stigma surrounding the disease. She addressed the issue in a heartfelt speech saying, “I’ll know Global’s work is done when we stop the eugenics against people with Down syndrome in other countries and the discrimination we still have in ours. I’ll know my work is done when parents like me can close our eyes and leave this world without fear - knowing that our children will be accepted, independent members of society.”
In 2019, the Global will turn 10 years old. Whitten also touched on its achievements adding, “When Global started in 2009, there was almost nothing in the area of Down syndrome research. Today we have over 30 labs and 100 researchers at the Anschutz Medical Campus and at CU Boulder dedicated to science that will benefit people with Down syndrome. And at the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado, we are providing excellent medical care for patients from 27 states and seven countries.”
The star-studded Be Beautiful Be Yourself fashion show is the single largest fundraiser benefiting people with Down Syndrome. Mario Lopez co-hosted the event during which Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank was impressed in hearing the term “differently-abled” to describe persons otherwise dubbed “disabled.”
Among the many informative, eye-opening and inspirational speeches was that of Frank Stephens, the 2016 Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award recipient, who brought the audience to its feet after his heartwarming remarks. He specifically addressed people who thought “the world would be a better place without us” and offered them three important points.
“First, we are a medical gift to society. Second, we are an unusually powerful source of happiness and finally, we are the canary in the eugenics coal mine.” He explained each point in a poignant and informative way and closed by saying, “We should not have to justify the extra chromosome that made us who we are. We have earned the right to celebrate it and say proudly, I am a man with Down Syndrome and my life is worth living!”
Proceeds from the event benefit Global’s life-saving and life-changing medical care and scientific research at the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
For more information on donating or finding ways to get involved visit. www.globaldownsyndrome.org. Follow Global Down Syndrome Foundation on Facebook & Twitter @GDSFoundation.