Hey! It’s October! For The Small has teamed up with a local non-profit organization, Baskets of Love for Down Syndrome Awareness month.  Today we are featuring a fellow mompreneur, Danielle, who the inspiring founder behind this organization.

Danielle, what is the story behind Baskets of Love?

I was pregnant with Conor at the same time as five other friends, colleagues and neighbours we knew. After we received Conor’s prenatal diagnosis, my pregnancy went from being a joy and celebration I could share with those around me to being a very dark and lonely time. No one I knew was going through what we were going through. No one could genuinely say they understood or even able to offer any support or encouragement specific to the emotions and grief we were experiencing. I truly felt alone and it’s an awful thing to feel when you’re about to welcome a child to the world. Our experiences with medical professionals after Conor’s diagnosis only compounded those feelings. At the time of our diagnosis, it did not feel like our medical system was equipped to support new parents with the emotional aspect of receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis. To this day, you’re still handed a brochure or a piece of paper that’s been photocopied a hundred times with some information on Down syndrome and I believed something needed to change. New parents of a child with Down syndrome deserve more. They deserve to be loved and supported. They are welcoming, or have just welcomed, a child. A child worth celebrating. It wasn’t until we met other families of children with Down syndrome that we started to heal. A community rose around us and supported us in a way we desperately needed. It’s scary, yes, but everything is going to be okay and that little extra chromosome is going to be the greatest gift you never knew you wanted.

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What has been the most challenging aspect of running a non-profit organization?

I work full-time with two very high energy kids. Finding the time to do it all has definitely been the most challenging. I have great hopes and aspirations for Baskets of Love but at the end of the day I know I can only do so much on my own so I know it’s not where I want it to be and I’m missing babies. That’s the hardest part. But we’ve got big plans for the new year with a support system I’m hoping will take Baskets of Love even further and I’m really looking forward to that so stay tuned!

Do you have any advice for mompreneurs who also want to start incorporating social good into their business model? 

If it’s in your heart then just do it. Don’t hesitate. The idea for the baskets sat on my heart and in my mind for a long time before I had the courage to take the leap. In the beginning I thought I would start the baskets to help others. What came as a surprise to me was how much the baskets helped me. There’s a joy from giving unconditionally that I will forever be grateful for and I’ve said many, many times that I get so much more out of giving the baskets than I ever thought possible. It makes me so happy to have people help with delivering the baskets because it truly is a gift to your soul to pass on love and support to someone who needs it.

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People are often unsure how they should interact with children with Down syndrome. What is some advice that you would give to a stranger who is meeting you and Conor for the first time? 

Before we had Conor, I had never met a person with Down syndrome and I would also have asked this question. That mom of a child with Down syndrome at the park or in the mall or at the restaurant is probably very aware that they are being perceived as different. Something I learned very quickly in our journey is that people with Down syndrome and their families are more alike than different. Say hi! Ask about my child. We encourage and welcome you getting to know us because then you can see that Down syndrome isn’t as scary as you may think. There definitely can be differences that set our kids apart but at the end of the day Conor just wants to play and be included and I am just another mom that is on her second cup of coffee, forgot to brush her teeth this morning and is counting down the hours until bedtime!

At this present moment, what brings you joy? 

Watching Conor soar. I am a firm believer in treating Conor just as I would any other child. Given the right tools, support and modified expectations, Conor can and will do most everything any other child will. It just might take him a little longer. He recently started Kindergarten and there was a lot of preparation, hard work and support that went into getting him ready for this next chapter. There was (and still is!) so much anxiety that came with this transition but he has shown us, once again, how capable he is. He is loving Kindergarten and fully embracing his role as big brother to our one year old. We still have a lot of hard work and advocacy ahead of us but watching him blossom at this moment in time I bringing us great joy.

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Thank you Danielle for bringing so much light into this world!! We are so grateful to have been able to collaborate with you this month. We are also incredibly grateful to the small shops who have made donations.  Being a small shop owners ourselves, we understand that our margins are thin so are SO grateful for your kinda hearts.  Danielle is always looking for donations for her baskets and she has posted a wish list of items on her website. If you are interested in making a donation or want to know more about her cause, visit her at Baskets of Love.

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