Submitted photo

A little boy with Down syndrome is getting some big exposure Sept. 20 when his photo will be featured on Times Square’s Jumbotron in New York City to kick off Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Tracy Allocco McAuliffe, a 1999 Desert Vista High School graduate, entered a photo of her son Everett into a contest held by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). Her photo was selected from thousands to be used as part of the NDSS’s annual Times Square video presentation that kicks off Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The video presentation will be followed by the 20th annual Flagship Buddy Walk in New York City.

Everett was born on May 5, two weeks before his due date, with trisomy 21 Down syndrome.

At 4 weeks old, his mom saw some newborn photos on Pinterest of a baby in the pocket of his father’s Army uniform. Everett’s dad is in the Army and so McAuliffe decided to give the photo a try.

“He was still so small and I wanted to show how tiny he was even at 3 weeks old,” Tracy said. “I put him in the pocket and he struggled for about three seconds and then he fell right asleep. It was perfect weather. He fell right asleep. He stayed like that for the five minutes I was taking the photos.”

Tracy entered the photo into a smaller photo contest in Kansas City, near where the family currently resides, and won. It was the organizer of that contest that encouraged her to enter the national contest. Tracy said she was thrilled when they found out they were selected.

“This photo represents him and our family,” she said “His dad is Army and Everett's got Down syndrome … I want people to be aware of what Down syndrome is. It’s not something to be afraid of. We as parents need to look at the child first before the diagnosis.”

The photo will be featured on the big screen with about 200 others. The family won’t be able to be there in New York to see it live, but they’ll get a copy of the video once it is finished.

“I wish we could be there,” Tracy said. “To be in Times Square on a normal day is incredible but to be there and watch a million people see this video of my son on that giant Jumbotron would bring me to tears. I would love to have video of the video playing just to see the reaction to everything.”

Tracy said she took the photo as a way to remember how small and innocent her baby was but to have it used for a much grander purpose is humbling.

“He’s still a normal kid,” she said. “He’s going to be a little delayed as far as learning happens, but he’s still going to be able to walk and communicate with us and go to school and have brothers and sisters some day and friends. There’s nothing that we want to hold him back from. We want him to enjoy every opportunity that he would be able to participate in whether he had Down syndrome or not.”

This year, Buddy Walk events will be held in more than 250 cities across the country, as well as select international locations, in and around October. For information about the NDSS National Buddy Walk Program, visit www.buddywalk.org or call (800) 221-4602.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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