A new calendar featuring local families is highlighting the positive attributions and contributions of people with Down syndrome into the community.
The 2023 calendar is part of the Now I Know campaign which is being run by the Waterloo Wellington Down Syndrome Society. It features 47 families across Wellington County, Guelph and Waterloo Region. Along with photos, caregivers were asked to provide a quote on what loving someone with Down syndrome is like, what they learned and wish they had knew beforehand. The calenders are available for pre-order online.
"Families are putting themselves out there to share their stories, and these stories matter to the community," said Katrina Fraser, public relations coordinator of the WWDSS and part of the calendar committee.
Prior to the release of the calendar, the WWDSS is sharing the photos and quotes on its social media pages. The photos can be seen on Instagram. Recently, the campaign shared the story of Colton, a six-year-old who lives in North Fergus.
"There's definitely families from the Wellington County area," Fraser said about those featured in the calendar.
To help take the photos, a professional photographer volunteers their services with the organization. Fraser said the photographer has been volunteering with them for eight years, and is also on the calendar committee.
"The colour and vibrancy of the colours, they're really upbeat, and they just want to show people in our community that people with Down syndrome are well-loved, well-respected members of our community," said Fraser.
The calendar is more than just a fundraiser as it aims to raise awareness about Down syndrome. October is American Down Syndrome month with the last week of the month being Canadian Down Syndrome awareness week.
Fraser said there are several misconceptions about people with Down syndrome that are harmful. Through campaigns like Now I Know, she hopes more people will gain a better understanding of people with Down syndrome and include them more and ask questions.
"They're in your schools, and in your community, and on your sports teams and in your grocery stores, and hopefully, they will recognize they are as involved in your community as you are," said Fraser.
The campaign has not only gained popularity locally, but in the online community. Last year, Fraser said photos from the calendar campaign were featured in People Magazine and on Breakfast Television.
"Now, when you go to search for images for people with Down syndrome, you see a lot of the pictures from the WRDSS or WWDSS," said Fraser.
"Those images are now these uplifting photos of our members and smiling and family members who look just like yours who happens to have someone with Down syndrome."
As an organization, 2020 was also a year of re-branding and expansion. Formerly called the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society, Fraser explains the name was changed to include Wellington County to support local families who weren't part of their organization.
"There was a vacuum where some families weren't part of a local organization, so some families were falling through the cracks, so including Waterloo-Wellington, it captures a more larger area where families can join in," said Fraser.