After her son was born with Down syndrome, one mom chose to make a difference in the lives of other families raising children with an “extra special chromosome.”
Jack's Basket, a Minnesota nonprofit, delivers gift baskets to the families of newborns with Down syndrome to celebrate the birth of their child.
Carissa Carroll, the executive director and founder of Jack's Basket, told TheBlaze that the baskets include information about local and national resources for kids with Down syndrome and baby gifts, including some of her son Jack’s favorite toys.
In addition to delivering the baskets, the organization speaks to medical professionals about how to discuss the diagnosis with the families of children who receive it, Carroll said, offering them “a family’s perspective.”
Families, Carroll said, are often presented with misinformation about Down syndrome. They are told, she said, that they won’t be able to take their child out in public, they will have to be kept separate from other children for their health, or that their baby will not live. It’s important that myths about the diagnosis are “not how the story starts,” she added.
Carroll founded the organization after the birth of her second son, Jack, who “surprised us with his ‘extra special chromosome,’ as we call it.”
She and her husband were presented with little information about Down syndrome while they were in the hospital.
“I had to ask a few days after we left for information,” she said. “I just felt, he was born in 2013, and I just thought, ‘How are we not providing families resources?’ You’re kind of left to the internet, where there’s a lot of inaccurate information.”
Carroll said that as Jack got older and they met more families with kids who had Down syndrome, she realized that “some families were leaving the hospital without a ‘congratulations,’ when they had just given birth to a baby.”
“And I just was heartbroken by that,” she said.
So Carroll decided to change that.
“Every child should be celebrated,” Carroll said. “Every family should be congratulated, and we’re going to do that through little baskets.”
Baskets also include a letter from Carroll about what Jack’s life has meant to her family.
“Just sharing how he has changed our lives for the better, how he has helped us see life in a much more beautiful way,” she said.
The group is based in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, but they have sent baskets to 33 states as well as several other countries.
Jack’s Basket also inspired an effort to start a similar campaign in Norway.
The group aims to show that “although the diagnosis is unexpected, life is going to be so much better than you ever anticipated,” she said.
Carroll tells families of children with Down syndrome that “fears are normal” but she has learned that her son “just needed my love.”
“He’s shown us really what life’s about,” she said. “There’s so much unexpected joy on this journey.”
She hopes that baskets will be an asset to families starting on a new journey.
“I searched all the Down syndrome books and resources, but ultimately, I was looking for someone to tell me we were going to be OK,” Carroll said. “And each and every day, Jack is the one that tells me we’re going to be OK.”
Jack’s Basket recently made national headlines when a teenager donated his $1,500 in savings to the cause.
Jordan Witt, a high school senior, donated the money earned from part-time jobs to Jack’s Basket in honor of his younger brother, who has Down syndrome, according to WCCO-TV.
“It just shows the impact that his brother has had on his life, and here he wants to bless other families,” Carroll said.
The group typically marks World Down Syndrome Day with random acts of kindness.
“We just spread the love to show that people with Down syndrome just want to be loved and respected like you and I do,” Carroll said.