This weekend, the photos of 450 children with Down Syndrome from all over the country will be displayed in the heart of Times Square, including a 3-year-old from Severna Park.
Ellie Ochalek loves playing with her brother, climbing on the playground and doing ballet. She has no idea that she has Down Syndrome, nor does she know how much her parents worried about her being born alive.
"That was our main concern because so many doctors had doubts," said Lauren Ochalek, Ellie's mom. "But she's here, she's amazing and she's the light of our lives."
There's no doubt this little girl is dearly loved, and since her birth, Lauren has made it her mission to make sure Ellie and all children with Down Syndrome are given the same opportunities as other kids.
"We're not ever going to treat her as a child with a disability or a child with Down Syndrome," Ochalek said. "She is going to be treated just like any other developing child."
On Saturday, a picture of Lauren and Ellie will be displayed in Times Square in a video presentation put on by the National Down Syndrome Society. It's a moment of pride for Lauren and a chance to send a message to the world.
"It's shedding light on advocacy when it comes to inclusion and acceptance and respecting individuals with Down Syndrome," Lauren said. "To see Ellie's million watt smile light up Times Square is just going to be amazing."
To help show support for the Down Syndrome community, you can participate in the Baltimore Buddy Walk Oct. 4 at Rash Field.
And for parents whose child received a Down Syndrome diagnosis, Lauren recommends the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network via the Rockin' Moms group. For more information, click here.
Photo of Ellie and Lauren is done by Katie Hutchison/Stand in the Sun Photography