Institute for Community Inclusion Fellow Raises Awareness of Down Syndrome

March 28, 2013

Colleen Locke


An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker has produced 10 short films documenting the real lives of people with Down syndrome as part of a fellowship with the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI).

Filmmaker Melanie Perkins McLaughlin, who last year became the first person to receive the Allen C. Crocker Family Fellowship from ICI, unveiled the videos March 21 on the eighth annual World Down Syndrome Day. The clips were produced in conjunction with the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) “My Great Story” video project.

People with Down syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. The “My Great Story” campaign is designed to improve public knowledge of the condition and showcase the inspirational stories of people with Down syndrome.

Those stories include Evan Sneider, a Massachusetts actor who has been cast in two feature films; Trent Briggs, whose love for his 12-year-old sister Megan led to a change in the Scholastic Children’s Dictionary; and Chris Burke, who has gone from starring as Corky Thatcher on ABC’s Life Goes On to serving as a goodwill ambassador for NDSS.

McLaughlin, who has a 5-year-old with Down syndrome, outlined her idea to make these stories available to the public in an application for the ICI grant. NDSS created an online storybook several years ago as part of a print campaign, but McLaughlin’s project has given voice to these inspiring participants for the first time.

“I immediately connected with the families as the mother of a child with Down syndrome. It was such an honor and privilege to meet the families and share their experience with the rest of the world,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin’s videos were unveiled last week at Boston Children’s Hospital. They are now available on the NDSS website and on YouTube.

The Institute for Community Inclusion’s Allen C. Crocker Family Fellowship is a one-year fellowship. The ICI is currently seeking the next fellow, who will start July 1. Applications are due April 9.

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