Knoxville toddler with Down syndrome to be featured in Times Square video

Trieu Schwartz plays with baby Leona.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville toddler Leona Schwartz will appear on the world stage as part of a unique video that will be shown next month in Times Square in New York City.

The 21-month-old has Down syndrome. The video is part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s annual Times Square video presentation, featuring photographs of children, teens and adults with Down syndrome. The goal is to remind the world that people with Down syndrome, a genetic chromosome 21 disorder, have so much to contribute and so much joy to share, despite developmental and intellectual delays.

Leona’s picture, taken during a family beach vacation, is one of 500 to be featured in the video, out of more than 2,000 photos that were sent in from all over the world.

The Schwartz family is planning what they call “a trip of a lifetime” next month. Their story began when the NDSS sent out the call for photos. Trieu Schwartz sent in a photo of Leona.

She says when she received the email from NDSS with the good news that the photo was among those selected, she was overjoyed.

“I was really excited and I just wanted to share it with everyone. That’s the reason I did it – to bring awareness,” she said.

Gregory Schwartz, Leona’s dad, wants other parents of Down syndrome children to know that there are resources available that help a great deal.

“You find out and it’s alarming, and it’s shocking and scary, and at that point you just start digesting all the information you can,” said Gregory Schwartz.

The Schwartzs want other parents to know having a child with Down syndrome is a blessing.

“We have Leona. She is beautiful. People are drawn to her, and she’s funny and she’s wonderful,” said Gregory Schwartz.

The family will be packing up and heading to New York City for their big trip next month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common chromosomal condition.

The Times Square video, shown on Saturday, September 16, kicks off Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The video will be followed by the 23rd Annual Flagship Buddy Walk in New York City. This year, Buddy Walk events will be held in more than 275 cities across the country, as well as some international locations, in and around October with more than 325,000 people taking part around the globe.

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