Lovely Lucas Warren made historical past final week by turning into the primary “Gerber Child” with Down Syndrome within the firm’s 91-year historical past. The 18-month-old from Georgia was chosen from a pool of 140,000 infants who entered the competition, and his dad and mom, Jason and Cortney Warren, say they had been shocked by the information.
“It’s virtually like a dream,” Cortney Warren, from Dalton, Georgia, tells PEOPLE. “I feel it takes a minute to essentially set in, like, this is actual.”
Since then, the couple has acquired hundreds of messages on social media—they are saying they’re nonetheless getting used to the entire consideration.
“It’s very humbling,” Jason Warren says. “Who knew our baby was going to the touch so many individuals and make that many individuals smile. We’re loving what everyone is saying about our little boy. Lucas is loving it—he’s loving all these new individuals he will get to wave at.”
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Gerber first launched their initiative quickly after its founding in 1927, they usually introduced the competition on-line in 2010. Lucas might be featured in most of the firm’s social media posts going ahead, and together with his choice, the household claimed a $50,000 money prize.
Cortney says she entered Lucas into the competition on a whim at her son’s godmother’s urging. Whereas Lucas is unquestionably absorbing his time within the highlight, his dad and mom say Lucas shouldn’t be a lot totally different than every other toddler.
“He’s just about like each baby round this age, loves studying, likes to giggle, likes to make different individuals giggle, all the time waving and smiling at everybody,” she says. “He loves it when full strangers wave and smile again at him. It makes his day.”
The profitable photograph of Lucas, which options him in a polka dot bowtie and inexperienced button-up shirt, was snapped after his first Sunday at church.
“We bought again house,” Courtney remembers, “and I assumed he regarded so cute within the outfit and I simply determined to snap a fast image of it.”
The couple, who’ve been collectively eight years and married for 5, says they rapidly needed to choose up on the entire intricacies that include elevating a toddler with disabilities.
“It’s wonderful elevating a toddler with particular wants, and it would appear to be it’s tough firstly, nevertheless it will get higher,” Jason says. “We didn’t something about easy methods to increase a toddler with particular wants. We needed to study every little thing from scratch.”
Cortney provides that one of many major issues they needed to study was what Lucas’s medical wants would entail, which might embrace particular educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, bodily therapists and social employees. Individuals with Down syndrome are at larger threat for well being issues and may have surgical procedures to appropriate bodily defects, in response to the Nationwide Institute of Youngster Well being and Human Growth.
Shortly after Lucas was introduced as the brand new Gerber Child, many on social media started posting about their very own experiences, which included their youngsters with Down syndrome being allegedly rejected for all times insurance coverage protection by Gerber’s insurance coverage firm, Gerber Life (additionally owned by Nestlé).
Many criticized the corporate for seemingly utilizing Lucas for promotional functions.
Although the couple didn’t touch upon the backlash, a Nestlé spokesperson despatched a response to PEOPLE.
“Gerber Life points insurance policies that contemplate every baby’s distinctive scenario. Whereas each case is totally different, this contains issuing some insurance policies that cowl youngsters with disabilities, together with youngsters with Down syndrome,” the assertion reads. “As with all life insurance coverage insurance policies, every utility is evaluated totally and acceptance is made on a person foundation.”
Whatever the controversy, Jason and Cortney hope they’ll be capable of use the added consideration round Lucas to boost consciousness for the 6,000 infants born with Down syndrome yearly in the US. The couple hopes Lucas can convey hope to different households who could really feel anxious or afraid when discovering out their baby has Down syndrome or one other incapacity.
“There are numerous households on the market who’ve turn out to be frightened or afraid as a result of they don’t know,” Jason says. “We’re hoping they will see Lucas and simply get a glimpse of what all their baby can do.”