On Wednesday it was announced that a one-year-old baby boy from Dalton, Georgia was selected as Gerber’s new “baby of the year”. The winner, Lucas Warren, is generating a greater buzz than previous babies; this is because Lucas has Down Syndrome.
He was chosen out of 140,000 entries, marking a substantial achievement for the special needs community. Each year another individual with Down Syndrome makes headlines as a prominent figure. In December of 2017, Mikayla Holmgren of Minnesota became the first contestant with Down Syndrome to compete in the Miss USA pageant. Actors Lauren Potter, Chris Burk and Luke Zimmerman have all held important roles in various films and TV shows.
The Gerber baby advertising campaign began in 1928 with a sketch of an unnamed baby on all of its products. In 1978 a woman named Ann Taylor Cook was revealed as the baby whose portrait graced labels all over the country. In 2010, Gerber began holding an annual contest for parents to submit pictures of their child in hopes of being selected as the following year’s “Spokesbaby”, even though Cook’s face still remained on its labels. The winner appears in various advertisements and receives a hefty paycheck, as well as a great deal of Gerber clothing and products.
Although Lucas is only a year old, his platform as “Spokesbaby” speaks volumes for the Down Syndrome community. His smiling face (and hopefully polka dot bow tie) will appear on advertisements all around the world and awareness for individuals with disabilities won’t stop there. Organizations such as Best Buddies and Special Olympics provide opportunities for both students and adults to work with and gain a better understanding of people with handicaps. The increase of spokespeople with disabilities is another excellent method of raising awareness.
There is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to discrimination against these individuals. While Down Syndrome is one of the more recognizable disabilities, there are so many people with mental and physical handicaps all over the world that need more awareness and are essentially forgotten.
In a press release, Gerber’s CEO and president Bill Partyka said, “Lucas’ winning smile and joyful expression won our hearts this year, and we are all thrilled to name him our 2018 Spokesbaby. Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, Lucas is the perfect fit.” Hopefully in the future other brands will take a page from Gerber’s book and include people with disabilities in their campaigns. Unfortunately, the world has a long way to go in terms of equality among those with handicaps. Individuals like Lucas are already taking giant leaps, even if they are too young to realize it. Be sure to keep an eye out for Lucas on Gerber’s social media throughout 2018 to make your day (or year) a little brighter.
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