Celebrate T21 is a social enterprise focused on creating change, not profit. They have a huge network around Australia, bringing together families within the Down syndrome community and sharing their stories and inspiration. They dream of a world where no family should feel isolated, unsupported or pressured to terminate based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. They are known for their gorgeous photo book projects and beautiful Celebrate T21 Gift Packs which they GIFT to families receiving a pre or postnatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Their hope is to provide all families with a new diagnosis of Down syndrome in Australia with their very special gift pack to welcome them into the supportive Celebrate T21 community. Here, founder Stephanie Rodden shares her story with the Natural Parent Magazine, explaining the inspiration behind Celebrate T21 and their desire to educate and support families throughout Australia.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Celebrate T21 was born out of a desire to provide support to parents at the point of a Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) diagnosis. I was inspired on this journey after struggling to find support and connection at the point of my own prenatal diagnosis, and while pregnant with my son Lincoln in 2016.
At Celebrate T21, we believe all families should feel supported.
We work closely with families to educate, empower and advocate for their choices, by supporting and celebrating their child with Down syndrome, and extending a hand of comfort and compassion when a diagnosis is received.
Unfortunately, the majority of families receiving a diagnosis of T21 are given little or no support, which means the rate of termination in Australia is exceptionally high. I experienced this firsthand, when pregnant with my son Lincoln.
I was told by our doctor that my unborn child had Down syndrome, and then given options to terminate. But I knew straight away I wanted to keep my baby. I was the 1 in 10 who chose the unknown. Lincoln is now four, and brings us so much joy. I want other parents to have the support I was missing when receiving a diagnosis. We want to help them make an informed decision, and to know they’re not alone in their journey.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I’m a professional photographer and a teacher, so the original idea for Celebrate T21 was inspired by the power of photographs to celebrate and honour the special people in our lives, and to provide support and guidance for newly diagnosed families.
In 2017 we launched our first beautiful photo book, which showcased amazing families with Down syndrome around the country. Since then, we’ve launched two more photo books – one for an organisation in the UK (Wouldn’t Change a Thing), and our newest book for Australia which features more than 180 amazing families. These books are truly about celebrating people with Down syndrome, and removing outdated stigmas around what life with T21 is really like.
Since launching, we’ve expanded our services and products to include gift packs for newly diagnosed families and to welcome their beautiful babies, beautifully designed merchandise, and a thriving community of families from around Australia.
Even more rewarding is seeing the connections families make with other families, as a result of Celebrate T21 bringing them together, and receiving photos from families of their ultrasounds and babies with their gift pack items.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
Key innovations for us have included:
- Rebranding with The Vanity Fair shoot and Alexis Schnitger Design Tee Collections and Mister Kidd productions – taking our visual assets to the next level, and creating really beautiful photos and merchandise to raise funds and awareness.
- Officially engaging ambassadors and mentors to help with campaigns and raising awareness.
- The Print-a-thon fundraiser was a game changer – we encouraged families featuring in our new photo book to raise funds, and this gave us a cash injection to print the books, fund our gift packs, and host an amazing art gallery exhibition of the book photography in February 2021.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Honestly, it’s a juggling act, and it is an area that needs massive improvement.
For me, the biggest challenge as a creative person is learning how to switch off work life. I am trying to make a conscience effort to give myself an ‘end work for the day’ but working from home also means, when the kids are around, you need to be present, so if that cuts into work time, making up for it at another time (even if that’s late at night or early in the morning). It’s just what you do.