Down syndrome is the least-funded major genetic condition in the United States. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation strives to change this pattern by holding a variety of events – its most high-profile being the “Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show” – to raise awareness and funds for research.
The fashion show, recently held in Denver, is the world’s largest fundraiser for Down syndrome. This year’s gala raised $2.5 million and during the past 11 years, Global has raised a total of $20 million.
Locally, the event benefits medical care and research at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Singers Ronnie and Shamari DeVoe glam up the runway with a couple exuberant fashion show participants at the “Be Beautiful Be Yourself” gala. Photo (and at top) by Thomas Cooper.
The centers perform some of the most groundbreaking Down syndrome research and care, so it’s no wonder they are deemed worthy beneficiaries.
Groundbreaking research at CU Anschutz
Among the researchers at CU Anschutz who circle the date every year are Huntington Potter, PhD, and Joaquin Espinosa, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology.
‘It's a very inspirational moment.’ – Joaquin Espinosa, PhD
“We have been studying the mechanistic relationship between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease for a long time,” said Potter, director of the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “And this event recognizes and supports these efforts.”
Added Espinosa, “Thanks to financial support from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the Crnic Institute and the University of Colorado have become the largest center for the study of Down syndrome in the world.”
Smiles all around
The glitzy event, held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver, drew about 1,500 attendees. They donned floor-length ball gowns, tuxedos and no shortage of glitter, sequins and glam. One common accessory adorned each attendee: a smile.
Actress Laura Linney with a runway fashion participant. Photo by Jared Wilson.
The silent auction area featured an enormous display of over 100 items, ranging from fine wines and designer items to all-inclusive trips and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. A-list celebrities and guests of the hour, including Henry Winkler, Laura Linney, and Jamie Foxx, walked down a brilliant red carpet. Each stopped to speak with the press and express their excitement.
There’s a big lesson we can learn from people with Down syndrome, said Winkler with a smile as cameras flashed and shuttered.
Highlight of the night
Following a fine-dining meal, the live auction took place. Items up for auction included traveling with the Broncos to an away game, staying at the team’s hotel and watching the game from the sideline.
Then came the fashion show, with models, accompanied by a celebrity partner, strutting their stuff down the runway. The partners included actors, singers, Nuggets dancers and more.
“The fashion show is my favorite part of the event,” said Potter. “Everyone is having such a great time and they come away with a further commitment to helping people with Down syndrome.”
“Undoubtedly, the highlight of the night is when the children and adults with Down syndrome walk the runway with the celebrities,” said Espinosa. “It’s a very inspirational moment.”