A Huntington woman who started Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, a nonprofit that celebrates the birth of children with Down syndrome, is an honoree in the 2019 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth awards.
Brittany Schiavone, 30, has Down syndrome. Her organization, which she founded in 2014, sends baskets filled with baby essentials to new parents of babies with Down syndrome. Items include handmade hats and blankets, a book titled "Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parents' Guide” (Woodbine, 2008) and a onesie decorated in celebratory phrases such as “I Am Down Right Awesome.”
Since its inception, the organization has gifted baskets to more than 800 families from 49 states, says Schiavone.
“I want to tell these babies, 'You can do anything you set your mind to,' ” she says.
Not only is the organization working to change lives, it is working to change a narrative around Down syndrome, says Ashley Asti, secretary of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope and Schiavone’s friend. Sometimes, when doctors give parents the news that their child will be born with the congenital disorder, they might say, "I am sorry," she says.
“We think the message should be one of celebration — we say, ‘Congratulations,’” Asti said.
Schiavone delivers the baskets herself. She recently visited Jessica and Michael Ardolino of South Setauket and their daughters Hayden, 9, and Olivia, who was born in June with Down syndrome. “To see Brittany, and all she has done, it’s inspiring,” Jessica said.
Schiavone says she feels inspired by the work, too. “I feel pride and hope,” she said.
The 10 honorees in Women of Worth each receive $10,000 for their nonprofit. Online voting is underway through Nov. 15 at the Women of Worth website to choose a national honoree among the 10, who will win an additional $25,000.
The organization invites the public to request a basket or nominate a family for a basket through its website.