by Kim DeMontigny
Through a chance social media encounter, 2 passionate parents of toddlers with down syndrome came together, sparking a mission to help change the narrative surrounding Down Syndrome. Phillip from Isabel Grace Photography had already had his “ah-ha” moment of wanting to offer his professional photography to any individual blessed with Down Syndrome- AT NO CHARGE TO THEM. Pair this with Kim, a mom who wanted to see kiddos in her community get the opportunity to shine through his lens. And voila!- Down for Smiles mission was born!
In August 2022, we launched a campaign to bring Phillip from Austin Texas to Central California to photograph 5 families. We scouted locations, and reached out to small businesses, local down syndrome organizations, and the internet in general for support. In less than a week, we had raised enough funds to cover the travel for the IGP team. In less than 3 weeks after the chance encounter on Instagram, we had flights and stay booked and anxiously awaited our 1st in-person meeting.
When the day finally arrived and we strolled into downtown Tracy California to tour locations, the vibe could not have been more on point! It was like long-lost friends catching up after time away. We were finishing each other’s thoughts before we even made it through downtown. The next 3 days were a whirlwind of photoshoots- at the height of an epic heatwave well over 110 degrees- but it resulted in pure magic on film. We were able to capture the love, joy, and ability of 5 individuals with Down Syndrome, whose ages ranged from 15 months up to 14 years. There were several moments sweet tears were shed enjoying the company and mission. Shed by Phillip…Shed by Kim…Shed by the parents. It was the reward we hoped for from the mission.
From mid-September on, Phillip and I have worked to spread our wings and awareness of the mission. We are currently awaiting our final non-profit status while in the early planning stages of a campaign to bring our team to Oceanside New York to photograph 5 more families. The mission is simple- Allow your loved one with Down syndrome the opportunity to shine their brightest through our lens. We hope to celebrate along with you, the family and friends, wherever you are on your journey with Down Syndrome. By sharing their pictures with the world, we can start to etch away at the antiquated concept that they are not capable. We want to show their ability and with the sharing and support behind this mission, we will get there!
We welcome any support to get us to New York. Please check out our website and the mission as it continues to grow. We hope to see your loved ones in our portfolio sometime soon!