By Emily Robillard, Assistant Program Manager
Look up here!!!!!
Loud, energetic, exciting – all words I would use to describe a Target photo shoot. My daughter Harlee (pictured above) has been modeling for Target since she was about nine months old. She thoroughly enjoys the excitement and goofiness the photographers and “baby wranglers” (yes that is an official title for the person whose job it is to make the children laugh and smile) bring to each photo shoot. What I think she likes most is being in a room with people and other children.
This past holiday season, Target ran an ad with a beautiful little girl who lives with Down syndrome. When I saw the ad I was thoroughly impressed with Target! Then a few weeks later, we were at a shoot, and two children with Down syndrome were there. My heart was so full to see that Target had chosen to continue hiring children with developmental disabilities; it wasn’t just a onetime thing. Watching my daughter interact with these other little models was amazing, and it got me thinking: “Why can’t we all see each other as little children do?” The three of them laughed, colored and ran around as if they were best friends. The fact that two of them had a disability did not stop them. Not once did they stare at each other or shy away from one another.
This experience also reminded me of my childhood. I grew up in Wayzata next to a group home of adults with disabilities. I’m not sure what organization supported/supports these individuals, but my parents still live next to them. From a very young age, my siblings, neighborhood friends and I would always go ring their doorbell and ask them to come out and play. None of us ever saw them as disabled. We actually thought they were way cooler than any adults we knew because they would play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with us!
Fast forward to when I moved home after college and was looking for a job. I had worked in a group home with children while in school and loved it. I knew of Hammer so I applied, and the rest is history. A few winters ago I had the privilege of participating in Ralph in the Schools. It was an amazing program! Teaching children from a young age about differences and similarities is a wonderful idea. Young minds are so open and eager to learning. Helping them understand abilities and disabilities really shapes their empathy and kindness later in life.
I am so proud of Target for opening up jobs to children of all abilities. It not only helps get the word out about disabilities, but it shows that anyone is capable of anything. In fact, I recently read about a young woman who walked in a fashion show for New York Fashion Week. She has Down syndrome and didn’t let that define her life. Watch out fashion world!