Sep. 5—When a video presentation displays across the iconic billboard screens of New York's Times Square to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with down syndrome later this month, one local toddler will represent northwest Ohio with his smiling spirit.
Eighteen-month-old Bennett Carey, of Sylvania, was one of 500 children, teens, and adults with down syndrome selected to be displayed in the video set to screen Sept. 18 as part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The video is displayed annually by the National Down Syndrome Society and kicks off the Buddy Walk, a nationwide awareness event held in New York since 1955. Young Bennett was selected out of more than 2,100 entries to be a part of the video.
"I'm so honored that my son will get his photo featured, and he'll be recognized," said Bennett's mother, Andrea Carey. "It'll bring some awareness to down syndrome to everybody, and maybe it will encourage people to donate to the different associations across the United States that help provide resources to these children.
"It's definitely exciting, and it's an honor to have him on the big jumbo screen," she said.
Bennett's photo that earned him a selection into the video presentation features his infectious smile as he's engaged in one of his favorite activities: riding in his Step 2 Ride Ford Raptor.
"He likes to laugh and he enjoys being around people," Ms. Carey said about her young son. "He likes going on walks in his red Raptor, and he just likes being around family."
The video presentation will be live-streamed on NDSS's Facebook page Sept. 18 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Then the Buddy Walk kicks off. New York's Buddy Walk will take place virtually again this year because of coronavirus precautions, but a local Buddy Walk in Toledo is planned to take place in person on Oct. 3, the same day that hundreds of other cities will participate in the event.
Ms. Carey said she absolutely would have attended the video stream in Times Square if not for coronavirus restrictions, but still hasn't made up her mind about attending. She will however get a copy of the video and a photo of Bennett being displayed in Times Square.
"It just depends on what happens between now and then," Ms. Carey said about potentially attending.
Ms. Carey and dozens of other members of "Bennett's Brigade" will participate in the local walk that takes place from noon to 4 p.m. at the University of Toledo. She welcomes others to join her team and donate or walk at the event.
And on Sept. 18, Ms. Carey hopes her son's smile can bring joy to the thousands of people watching. She also hopes it spreads a message of acceptance.
"We're all unique and we're all human, and we all are worthy of love," she said.
For more information about the Buddy Walk, visit the Down syndrome Association of Greater Toledo website.