By Tara Jones – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jada Hood’s laughter echoes off the Lima Senior hallways as she holds her father’s hand walking from the upstairs preschool to her mother’s classroom. Hood has become a familiar face in the community, and now she has also become the face of an international campaign.
Hood, 2, the daughter of James and Chrissy Hood who are both employees of Lima schools, was named one of the 33 ambassadors for Nothing Down, an organization bringing awareness to Down syndrome.
“What’s really great is everybody knows her in this community. If we walk through the halls, everybody in school knows her,” Chrissy Hood said. “I think that’s partly why [Nothing Down] chose her is because we have put her out there and let people see her and the students interact with her. She’s in a classroom upstairs full of typical peers and is thriving and so just to see her get some notoriety and recognition, it really is awesome for us.”
Nothing Down is an international organization aimed at changing the way the world views Down syndrome through documentaries, short films and campaigns focused around visibility and inclusion.
“It’s kind of like how far do you want to get involved with it, but once you become an ambassador you’re part of this special group,” Chrissy Hood said. “A big part [of the campaign] is dealing with a lot of misinformation and old information about people with Down syndrome and changing the face of what people think of when it comes to individuals with Down syndrome.”
Chrissy Hood said most ambassadors become featured in modeling advertisements to raise awareness. Jada was part of the 2019 calendar sold across the globe, one of Nothing Down’s biggest fundraisers throughout the year. There’s also the option to become a lifelong ambassador, something Chrissy Hood hopes Jada will pursue in continuing to share her journey.
According to Shannon Daughtry, co-founder of Nothing Down, over 500 applications were received this year, ranging in age from 14 months to 43 years old. They represent 16 states, as well as Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Hood is one of the three ambassadors selected for Ohio.
“All research shows that any child with any disability thrives and their typical peers thrive being around anybody with a disability,” Chrissy Hood said. “When she gets older and realizes she was the face of this organization, she will think, ‘I made people understand that there’s not limits that need to be placed on me.’ I think as she gets older and she can understand and comprehend that, she’s going to reflect back on that like, ‘that was pretty cool, this was a really big deal for me.’”
But for Hood and her family, this campaign began with three high school girls and a DECA project. Then seniors — Tatyanna Tolbert, Otisha Calhoun and Jalinda Houston — developed Spread Jada’s Joy, which raised both awareness and funds for local organizations.
That team began seeking out national and international campaigns and came across Nothing Down. The Hoods submitted their application for this year’s calendar and began Jada’s journey with Nothing Down. This year’s DECA team is continuing on that path with More Alike Than Different to raise awareness for all disabilities, not just Down syndrome, to keep Jada’s mission close to home.
“Last year as we were reflecting on the project and they were getting ready to graduate, it became kind of an emotional session,” Chrissy Hood recalled. “When she was born with the diagnosis, you don’t know how people are going to react or if they’re going to accept her or how she’s going to change your lives. But when you have a group of three teenage girls come to you and want to help you, that has allowed for our family to know that there’s nothing down about her.”