Angels in Disguise is a non-profit Down syndrome organization created in 2008. It began as a classical concert, held in honor of and in gratitude for a very special little girl, Elena Rose, on her first birthday. It has since grown into a cause, promoting Down syndrome awareness and celebrating the gifts of these incredible individuals. Elena Rose, and hundreds of thousands like her, are living proof that “normal” development or IQ are not prerequisites for life, happiness and love. Individuals with Down syndrome have a unique and unbelievable ability to enrich our lives, unlock our defenses and love deeply. They are pure and precious gifts. They are true angels who can touch our souls and warm our hearts, one smile at a time, making the “typical” world around us a much better place.
Sadly, not everyone can see angels. Many cannot see the beauty behind their disguises. Decades of negative and inaccurate public perception have minimized them. Far too often these individuals are underestimated by a focus on their disability rather than on their ability. They are defined by a label, rather than by their love. They are viewed as a clinical diagnosis, rather than as a person; a burden, rather than a blessing. Their worth is questioned. When people with Down syndrome are referred to by demeaning and inappropriate names, it sustains and perpetuates low expectations and negative stereotypes that further impede the acceptance of these angels in schools, the workplace and the community. This misunderstanding has hindered the cause of getting these individuals to a place they deserve in society, where they are welcomed and embraced as the uniquely valuable persons they are. Down syndrome is not a life sentence, it is a life enhancement.
Fortunately, welcoming in society comes naturally as people take the time to get to know these angels. Given the opportunity and necessary support, individuals with Down syndrome thrive, raising the rest of us in the process. Their potential is limitless, their courage inspirational, their passion for love and life contagious, their smiles infectious. Anyone lucky enough to have a meaningful friendship with a Down syndrome individual is necessarily better for it. One person, one family, and one community at a time this truth is evident. They are true gifts, sent to teach us to love unconditionally. They are full of wonder — no walls, no barriers, no prejudice. Their contribution to society is only limited by our own attitudes and acceptance. They are living lessons of love we cannot afford to pass by.
It is from this belief and offer of hope that Angels in Disguise was born. With a true understanding of Down syndrome, minds and misconceptions can change, hope can be given and precious lives can be enriched. By simply sharing the true gifts and potential of these individuals, whose humanity and value to society shine through from the moment of birth, we can make a difference.