Claire is a 10-year-old 5th grader from Papillion, Nebraska. She is well known at school for her empathy and big heart. She is always concerned for the well-being of others. Outside of school, she participates in TOPSoccer, Special Olympics bowling, and Why Arts? theater camp. She has also served as a Youth Ambassador for JDRF, a nonprofit that funds type 1 diabetes research and advocacy. Claire enjoys music, dance, and singing along with everything from Disney to Queen. Claire loves traveling with her family to National Parks and sporting events to cheer on her favorite teams – the Cubs, Huskers and Blackhawks!
Clarissa is a confident 7th grader who enjoys school and hanging out with her typical peers. Her passions include swimming, gymnastics, throwing around a medicine ball, shopping, and modeling. Her two older brothers adore her, and her love for them knows no bounds. Clarissa is also a proud ambassador for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. This year, she and her family appeared on Fox News on behalf of GLOBAL’s advocacy to discuss how wrong it is for COVID-19 triage care policies to discriminate against people with disabilities.
Gretchen Coon is 15 years old and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her parents and big sister, Brigid. Despite some major health issues early in life, she has grown into a beautiful, vibrant young woman with a great sense of humor and a special talent for making friends all over the world. She is passionate about everything she does, especially swimming, watching movies, and meeting new people. With plans to attend college and live independently one day, Gretchen is benefiting from organizations like GLOBAL which have opened up so many opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.
DeOndra is the inaugural Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award recipient and has been a GLOBAL Ambassador since 2011. She lives in California with her brother, the award-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx. DeOndra is very grateful how her family helps her reach her potential and her goals and she is eager to help others with Down syndrome do the same. She travels around the U.S. and the world representing GLOBAL and people with Down syndrome at conferences and events. An excellent dancer, DeOndra has busted out her dance moves on national TV and even the Grammys, so watch out when she hits GLOBAL’s runway!
Brian is an aspiring actor who has appeared in several television shows including Glee, Shameless, and Rules of Engagement. He recently co-starred in a short film, The Adoration, which was filmed in Los Angeles. He loves acting and has trained with several acting coaches, hoping to make it his full-time career one day.
Brian lived for in England with his family for a few years and experienced many aspects of European culture. For the past 5 years, he has worked in the banqueting department at the Montage Hotel Laguna Beach, CA . Brian seems to know everyone working there and they all give him an A+ for his sociability and friendliness.
Rachael (or Rae) was missing life-sustaining parts of her heart at birth. However, the life-giving parts were abundant – she is kind, caring, loving, and hospitable. Rae is 21 years old and the youngest of seven children. Her passions are to sing and dance – and to care for others. She has been involved in many events with GLOBAL and Special Olympics including cheer, basketball, soccer, swim, and tennis. Her all-time favorite activity is dancing with friends and family at GLOBAL’s I Love You dance parties. Rae is involved with her church and volunteering in the café and at the food bank.
Meet Hudson – the toughest, most resilient, 10-year-old on Earth! He’s an energetic, affectionate, and funny 5th grader who loves music, dancing, movies, trucks, boating, and riding his bike. His favorite subjects in school are math, spelling, and of course, lunch. He lights up any room with his hilarious, outgoing personality and makes friends wherever he goes. Hudson is a pediatric leukemia survivor and tackled the challenge with the same energy and tenacity he is so well known for. Hudson brings his incredible smile and fun-loving attitude to the world each day and is a joy to be around.
Shawn is 19 years old and from Omaha, Nebraska. He lives at home with his parents and two brothers, Devin and Carson. Shawn is currently enrolled in his school’s Young Adult Program, where he enjoys any and all activities that involve social interaction. He competes in Special Olympics swimming and powerlifting and enjoys friendly competition within his family. During the 2020 quarantine, he wore everyone out with nonstop requests for 4-square, Wii Sports, and card games! Shawn’s love for life and others is truly infectious. A shining light for his family and friends, getting to know Shawn is a blessing.
Isaiah is 24 years old and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Isaiah works as a popcorn guy at Fenway Park for all Red Sox games and as an usher/ticket taker at Boston University’s Agganis Area for concerts and sporting events. Isaiah is a strong self-advocate, who speaks at various schools, from elementary to university, about his life with Down syndrome. Isaiah is rocking life and loves to entertain people. During the COVID-19 quarantine, he has been making music videos and Facebook live events, singing and dancing for his followers. His Bob Marley performance got over 3 million views!
Kenneth or “Kenny” is 20 years old and was born in Virginia. He now resides in Los Angeles with his mom, older sister, and two tuxedo cats, Jasper and Jasmine. He graduated in 2019 from Santa Monica High School and is currently enrolled in an adult transition program. His interests include karate, computers, videos, music – his favorite band is Maroon 5 – and anything Disney. Kenny participates in and raises money for the annual local Buddy Walk and was chosen twice for the Times Square Jumbotron video! Mostly nonverbal, Kenny makes his presence known when entering a room with a big smile and a warm hug.
Taylor is a sensational 14-year-old from Arkansas who aspires to become a veterinarian assistant. Taylor knows her faith has helped her overcome obstacles. Dance has been a part of Taylor’s life since she was 2.5 years old, every year building her endurance and love for ballet, jazz, and tap. Taylor has been in full inclusive classes with choir as the highlight. This year, Taylor got her learner’s permit so that she can drive with her when we take her to school. Recently, Taylor launched a private YouTube channel to share life as a teenager with Down syndrome, cheerleading, all things American Girl Doll, and karaoke.
Louie Rotella IV – “Big Lou”
Louie lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He attends the Young Adult Program through Elkhorn High School and enjoys learning a variety of life transition skills. He can bust a move to any upbeat song. Besides lots of swimming and playing marbles, his days are filled spending time with his family. Louie is proud to have been the 2016 GLOBAL Ambassador and looks forward to his friend Walt following in his footsteps. He also enjoys working part-time with his father and grandfather at the family business, Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Inc. Louie is a fun loving twenty year old who listens to his parents and always tries to do the right thing… most of the time!
Alexandra or “Alex” is 22 years old and lives in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. She wakes up every morning happy and delighted, asking “where are we going?” She loves her sports activities including Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Dare to Cheer Camp, Peak Stars Dance, Unified basketball, and lacrosse. Alex loves planning her outfits with a theme of the day. Whether it’s camping at Roundup River Ranch, training at Easterseals Rocky Mountain Village, or sailing with the NSCD at Grand Lake, Alex is always ready for action.
Marcus is a 30-year-old creative soul who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He has acted on stage with local and national companies, as well as written a short one-act play, which was produced locally. His first storybook for children and accompanying animated short is titled Black Day: The Monster Rock Band. When he’s not watching theater, singing, or working out, he’s writing new stage productions and contemplating Black Day Two. You can connect with Marcus and his adventures via Twitter (@marcusmusical), Facebook (GrownUpsAndDowns), and BlackDayBook.com.
Walt is a 16-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska. He is a sophomore at Westside High School, where he is fully included. He runs track and plays in the school band. He is part of “Sparklers” Cheer and the unified bowling team. Walt is a staunch advocate for inclusion. His contributions to his family and community, his zest for life, and compassion for others make him beloved wherever her goes. Walt has modeled in the fashion show before and is thrilled to be GLOBAL’s 2020 Ambassador.
Olivia was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She is now 11 years old and the oldest of three girls. She is an amazing big sister and loves to take care of her sisters. Olivia loves to sing and dance, and she has been in dance classes for 5 years learning ballet and tap. Olivia is really outgoing and makes friends with whoever she meets. If someone is having a bad day, Olivia can make them feel better with just a smile and hug. Olivia has made the Principal’s Honor Roll the last three years at her school because she works so hard and always applies herself.
Jake is a sweet, happy 16-year-old who loves meeting new people and being with friends. He loves dancing and singing to his favorite music. His happy place is anywhere on the water. In fact, he spent his 16th birthday tubing on the lake! Jake was also on the dive team in Maryland for three summers. He plays Unified basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and track at Cherry Creek. Unified lacrosse is his favorite, which his brothers, Cole and Zach, also play. He goes to all their lacrosse games, and sometimes even works as the assistant coach. He loves cheering and giving high fives to the players on both teams, and they love having him on the sidelines.
Kate is from Seattle and plays soccer, basketball, and is a Special Olympics Young Athlete. She enjoys skiing, swimming, dancing, and acting. One of Kate’s favorite things to do is play with her older brother, Kirby III. She has modeled for Nordstrom, Lululemon’s ivivva brand, and the Bellevue Collection. Kate is 11 years old now, but when she was only 15 months old, she became a GLOBAL Ambassador. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation helps ensure that Kate gets to live her life fully, which is exactly what she wants!