By Bridget Sielicki
One Texas photographer has started a not-for-profit organization with the hope of letting the world see the beauty of those with Down syndrome while bringing greater awareness to the Down syndrome community.
The organization, “Down for Smiles,” was started by Phillip Flores in 2022. It has a mission “to share the joy, beauty, and ability within the Down syndrome community through free professional photos.”
During a recent segment, Flores told NBC News that his daughter, Isabella Grace (Izzy), was the inspiration behind his launch of the organization. Izzy, who is four years old, has Down syndrome.
“I saw the beauty, and the capability, all the possibilities that Izzy has, possesses, and exudes, and I wanted to show that she’s the light of our lives,” he explained.
Flores said that he believes offering professional photos will help boost the confidence of the people he’s helping. “I hope to give them a voice, I hope to give them hope,” he said.
In an interview with Great Day Houston earlier this year, Flores and his wife said that finding community was so important after learning Izzy had Down syndrome, and through the photography they hope to show other parents that the Down syndrome community is open, welcoming, and full of love.
“When we first found out, to most parents it’s going to be like a punch in the gut. But then you start learning about it, and there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Flores said. “The community out here is full of love and it’s full of acceptance, and it’s so empowering to each individual family. Instead of trying to run from it, I would encourage all parents to run towards it, and embrace it,” he added, calling people with Down syndrome, “angels on earth.”
Alice Sims, whose 17-year-old daughter Haley has Down syndrome, praised Down for Smiles’ mission. “It brings confidence in the children that are taking those pictures, and then it shows the world the beauty that is Down syndrome,” she told NBC News.
Wes and Amanda Hudson are grandparents to 10-year-old Sadie, who also has Down syndrome. They also expressed appreciation for the chance to have their relationship documented through the photos. “We’ve just always thought she was one of the best miracles in our life,” Wes said.
Flores summed up his mission, saying, “Our community is beautiful and it’s glorious, and it deserves to be screamed from the mountaintops and celebrated.”
Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and is reposted with permission.