As Down Syndrome Awareness Month draws to a close, we wanted to highlight a few people born with Down Syndrome who are changing the conversation about how we think about this genetic condition. Extraordinary people like professional model Madeline Stuart and MMA fighter Garrett Holeve urge everyone to revisit how we define beauty and strength.

Madeline Stuart - Special Needs Essentials

Madeline Stuart: The New Beautiful Face in Fashion

Globally-recognized model Madeline Stuart turned heads and made headlines when she strutted down the runway during New York Fashion Week last month. Hosted by fashion brand FTL Moda, Stuart wore fitted, feminine haute couture and finished the show to a standing ovation. Earlier this year, actor Jamie Brewer from the hit tv series American Horror Story became the first person with Down Syndrome to model in a fashion show.

“This is about creating inclusions, stopping discrimination and breaking down those walls of confinement,” said Stuart via Facebook. “Modeling is just the vehicle that is letting us do it. We want everyone to be loved. After all, that is all that truly matters.”

Madeline has documented her NYFW journey via social media. Since her debut as a model a year ago, Madeline has amassed nearly 80,000 Instagram followers, more than 3,300 Twitter fans and 471,911 Facebook followers. In a series of candid photos and tweets, the inspirational model shared the moments that helped shape the future of the fashion industry.

Damian Graybelle, the president of EverMaya, released this statement when the lifestyle brand announced that Madeline had been named as their new spokesmodel. “Let me be clear here – Madeline Stuart is not a ‘beautiful young woman with Down Syndrome.’ Rather, she is beautiful – full stop.”

Garrett Holeve - Special Needs Essentials

Garrett Holeve: Fierce Fighter For Equality

Professional MMA fighter Garrett Holeve is breaking down preconceived notions of people with Down Syndrome in a literal way. Holeve, known professionally as G Money, is fierce both in and out of the hexagonal cage. He has trained as a MMA fighter for five years and wants a chance to compete. As it turns out, Holeve’s biggest battle hasn’t been in the ring. It’s with the people who want to prevent him from participating in professionally-sanctioned fights.

Last August, minutes before the opening bell, the boxing commission ordered the cancellation of a bout between Holeve and David Steffan, a Special Olympian with cerebral palsy. Armed with the full support of National Down Syndrome Society, Holeve has partitioned the Florida authorities for his right to compete in MMA.

“Garret has the same rights as the rest of us. It doesn’t matter that he has Down Syndrome. If he’s a fighter, then he’s a fighter,” said Mark Priceman from the National Down Syndrome Society.

While he waits for the verdict, Holeve is connecting to his beloved sport in other ways. Recently, he founded Garrett’s Fight Foundation which advocates for competitive opportunities for adaptive athletes.

Garrett’s Fight Foundation strives to turn disabilities into abilities by making the necessary modifications to training and finding ways to conquer one’s limitations. The foundation promotes the integration of individuals with various disabilities into athletics by providing individualized coaching and adaptive training. 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness. During the month of October, we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of their tremendous abilities and accomplishments.

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