For the past three years, Brittany Schiavone has been committed to spreading hope and joy to families of new babies with Down syndrome across the nation. As the founder of the nonprofit Brittany's Baskets of Hope, the 30-year-old woman with Down syndrome wants new parents to feel loved, supported, and celebrated when they receive the organization's baskets packed with thoughtful resources for mom, dad, and their sweet new baby.
Brittany's Baskets of Hope has been up and running since October 2016, sending over 800 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico. "It’s a really big deal," Schiavone proudly tells Romper, adding that the only state they haven't sent a basket to yet is Alaska.
The baskets for parents who've recently welcomed a baby with Down syndrome include both "resources for the baby and resources for the parents," according to Schiavone, who runs the nonprofit from her home in Long Island.
For the baby, the baskets are sent out with a pair of booties, a hat, and a blanket that's hand-knitted by a local homemakers association. But the cutest and most heartwarming addition to the baskets might be the onesie that say "Down Right Perfect" across the front.
In addition to pamphlets and educational resources for parents, Schiavone also includes a copy of Babies With Down Syndrome: A New Parents' Guide by Susan J. Skallerup in the basket. Schiavone's mother, Susan, tells Romper, "That’s the one my husband and I used 30 years ago to kind of get us through the journey with Brittany when she was a baby."
Parents are able to request or nominate another family for a basket directly through the organization's website. Once Schiavone receives an order, she and her mother host a "packing party" at their home with their friends and family to get the baskets ready to go. Most recently, they put together an order of over 20 baskets to send all over the country.
Schiavone says she stays in touch with many of the families she's delivered or sent baskets to over the years, many of whom send photos to the organization on the baby's first birthday or posing with the items from the baskets.
Beyond spreading joy, Schiavone's compassionate work with Brittany's Baskets of Hope has earned her a spot on a list of honorees for L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth national competition. She's among 10 other finalists in 2019, who will all be recognized during the 14th annual celebration on Dec. 4 and will each receive $10,000 for their work of giving back. And the finalist voted as 2019's National Honoree will receive "an additional $25,000 for her cause." Voting is open from now until Nov. 15.
"I feel great and so happy," Schiavone says. "And I’m so glad I’m a Women of Worth honoree."
Schiavone's mother is just as thrilled. "We’re incredibly proud," she says. "She’s got a great message to send out there and I think to highlight a young woman of 30 with a developmental disability, being able to reach out to the world and show what an individual with Down syndrome can do... it really raises the bar and showing the world individuals with Down syndrome have worth, they have purpose, and they’re living great lives and she’s a really good example. We’re really proud of her."
Brittany's Baskets of Hope is primarily funded through donations, so Schiavone is especially excited about L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth national competition because the grand prize could help expand the organization's reach. In fact, they've gotten requests for baskets from families in Australia and Europe.
In the meantime, Schiavone is busy spreading the inspiring message behind her nonprofit. "People with down syndrome can do anything," she says, "really really really anything."