This weekend, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (GLOBAL) went virtual for the first time ever and raised over $1.9 million.

Now in its 12th year, GLOBAL’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show is the largest fundraiser for Down syndrome in the world and has raised a cumulative $22 million.

Held virtually on Saturday, November 14, the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show was a tremendous success. 2020 GLOBAL Ambassador Walt Snodgrass; Music Legend Quincy Jones; supermodels Beverly Johnson and Amanda Booth; award-winning actors John C. McGinley, brothers Matt Dillon and Kevin Dillon, Jeff Probst, Eric Dane, Zack Gottsagen, Jamie Brewer, Megan Bomgaars, Kevin Quinn (appearance arranged by Gotham Artists); Denver Broncos Von Miller, Brandon McManus, Justin Simmons, Jake Butt; Golfer Brad Hennefer; R&B power couple Ronnie & Shamari DeVoe; award-winning journalists Kyra Phillips and John Roberts; musician Sujeet Desai and more, were among those who rocked the virtual runway, which featured 25 beautiful models from 8 states and 3 countries who were introduced by their celebrity escorts. The show’s virtual format provided an extraordinary opportunity for people from across the U.S., and the world, to tune-in and join this inspirational and star-studded event.

“It was an honor to emcee the event this year, and to see how all the pieces came together so magically,” says John C. McGinley, who is a GLOBAL board member and international spokesperson, and father to Max, who has Down syndrome. “It truly was the virtual event of the year!”

“We are so grateful to John C. McGinley, our models, celebrities, and donors that helped make our first virtual event a success,” says Michelle Sie Whitten, GLOBAL’s President and CEO. “With COVID we have had such a tough year working to protect people with Down syndrome who are high risk from the virus, and to help families who have been crushed by the economic impact. Despite all that, GLOBAL was still able to deliver on publishing the first medical care guidelines for adults with Down syndrome, advocate for increased NIH research funding, and support over 2,000 patients with Down syndrome. Sadly, this year we also tragically lost our GLOBAL Ambassador DeOndra Dixon so we’re navigating a lot of loss.”

Later in the evening the legendary music icon Quincy Jones presented his namesake awards, the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Awards, to this year’s winners, award-winning actress and Grey’s Anatomy star Caterina Scorsone and Spanish model Marián Ávila.

“Modeling, walking a runway, and being featured in advertising campaigns is important to me,” says Marián Ávila, who has modeled in New York Fashion Week and has been profiled in international publications including Vanity Fair. “It makes me feel self-assured and happy. And it is a platform for diversity and equity for people with Down syndrome and all people. I am so honored to receive this award – GLOBAL truly allows the world to see us, hear us, and respect us.”

The show paid a loving tribute to the late DeOndra Dixon who is the inspiration behind GLOBAL’s highest honor, the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award. DeOndra tragically passed away last month. Music legend Quincy Jones himself introduced GLOBAL to DeOndra as one of the most articulate, irrepressible, magnetic people he had ever met. GLOBAL and DeOndra’s family have set up the “DeOndra Dixon Down Syndrome Research Fund” to focus on the often-neglected population of African Americans with Down syndrome. Anna and John J. Sie are generously matching $100K for this important research.

“It means so much to our family to see DeOndra’s legacy make a difference for GLOBAL and the Down syndrome community that she inspired,” says Mr. George Dixon, DeOndra’s father. “DeOndra was an angel and a star. I know she is looking down on us, loving on us and watching over us. She is our angel.”

“DeOndra’s fund is so important to the Down syndrome community, especially the African American community. It will give us opportunities to better understand and correct the health disparities for African Americans with Down syndrome,” says Beverly Johnson, a GLOBAL international spokesperson and aunt to Natalie Fuller, a GLOBAL model who happens to have Down syndrome.

Another highlight of the evening were the heartfelt performances honoring those in the Down syndrome community who have battled COVID-19. The Fray’s Isaac Slade gave an exclusive performance of “How to Save a Life,” and Multiplatinum Artist Rachel Platten performed her iconic “Fight Song” and “Better Place,” which left the audience on their feet from the comfort of their own homes. The Ransom Notes shared their wonderful Folk-Americana-Bluegrass music all the way from Nashville and had everyone clapping. To end the evening, singer-songwriter and actor Phillip Phillips performed a heartfelt tribute in honor of DeOndra Dixon with a beautiful rendition of “Gone, Gone, Gone.” Rachel Platten and Phillip Phillips’ appearances were arranged through Gotham Artists.

Lou III and Jill Rotella from Omaha chaired the 2020 event – GLOBAL’s first virtual Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show. Past event chairs include Kacey Bingham and Brittany Bowlen, Peter Kudla, Anna and John J. Sie, Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake, Ricki Rest, Nancy Sevo and Michelle and Tom Whitten. Other notables in attendance included past Global Ambassadors Chase Turner Perry, Kate Winfield, Sam Levin, Sophia Kay Whitten, Louis Rotella IV, Marcus Sikora, and Clarissa Capuano; and past Q-Award winners Tim Harris, Megan Bomgaars, Zack Gottsagen, Karen Gaffney, Sujeet Desai, Brad Hennefer, Jamie Brewer, and Frank Stephens.

Proceeds from GLOBAL’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show help underwrite life-changing and life-saving research and medical care at GLOBAL’s affiliates – the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, CU Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center, and the Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado, all at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We are proud of all the important work we’ve been able to accomplish this year, including receiving NIH grants to study COVID-19 and Down syndrome and launching a clinical trial that aims to cure autoimmune disorders in people with Down syndrome,” says Dr. Joaquin Espinosa, Executive Director of the Crnic Institute. “We couldn’t do any of this without GLOBAL’s support and events like our fashion show help underwrite our Crnic Grant Challenge Grants and important advocacy work.”

The fashion show would not be possible without the generosity of GLOBAL’s Leadership Circle, sponsors, Ambassadors, Q-Awardees, models, Down syndrome partner organizations, celebrities, self-advocates and families.

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