Brittany’s Baskets of Hope makes and delivers baskets to families that have a new baby with Down syndrome to celebrate as well as provide information, support, guidance, and hope to those families. The nonprofit organization was founded by Brittany Schiavone. Enjoy the interview with Brittany below:

Can you tell us about yourself and what inspired you to create Brittany’s Baskets of Hope?

“When I was born 31 years ago, the doctors didn’t expect much of me. The moment they held me up to my mom after I was delivered, she knew something was different. She said I looked like a sack of potatoes sitting limply in the doctor’s hands, though I was crying mightily. That’s when I was diagnosed with Down syndrome—and all the “she’ll never be able to do…” advice came after. 

But I defied the doctor’s expectations because while they saw a diagnosis, my parents just saw their little girl who they were going to raise just like my older brother, Justin. I was a little girl and that was that. So as I grew up, I tumbled in gymnastics, rode on horseback, and swam through the pool for the Special Olympics. In high school, my life really thrived. I became a member of the school’s typical dance ensemble and walked the runway in my school’s fashion show twice (once on the arm of my principal!). I went to three proms. And I graduated high school. 

I always thought I was destined for the stage—I love to act and sing. I just never knew my stage would take the form of my own nonprofit, a platform that would allow me to spread more than my voice, but that would allow me to spread hope and love and joy. 

One day while working at a clothing boutique, my boss showed me a video during our break of people welcoming new babies with Down syndrome to the world. The moment I saw it, something in me knew: this is part of my calling. I went home and insisted to my parents: “I want to help new parents of babies with Down syndrome.” I wanted to give them hope. 

So, in 2014, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, a 501(c)3 nonprofit was born with a mission to spread resources, hope, and love to families with new babies with Down syndrome across the country.”

What are your dreams with the organization? How have these dreams changed from when you originally started?

“To fulfill our mission, we send what we call “baskets of hope” filled with resources and celebratory gifts to families with new babies with Down syndrome. Getting the organization off the ground was not what I expected. I always thought Brittany’s Baskets of Hope would be a local effort, where I would go into hospitals after babies with Down syndrome were born and deliver a basket of hope directly to a local mom. But as we started organizing and reaching out to hospitals, we realized there was too much red tape (including understandable and necessary privacy laws), so we had to nix that plan. 

So we started imagining visiting these local families once they were home from the hospital. But something unexpected happened: with the help of my brother-in-law Matt, who worked at Fox Business at the time, I was interviewed by the network in late 2016 and my story was broadcast across the country. Within days, over 100 basket of hope requests came pouring in to us from all over the country. Suddenly, we were national—and our baskets turned into big packing boxes.

To date, we’ve sent nearly 1,100 welcome baskets of hope to families in every state. And I’ve gotten to visit many local families in person.”

What have been some of the challenges that you have faced since starting the company?

“The biggest challenge in my work is showing the world what’s possible for people with Down syndrome. In the Down syndrome community, we call this “shouting our worth.” Sending hope to families newly welcoming a baby with Down syndrome into their lives is important because, often, when babies with Down syndrome are born, people (even doctors!) will say, “I’m sorry,” to the parents when they hear the news. At Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, we don’t say, “I’m sorry.” We say congratulations! I want these parents to see that their child will grow up to live a full life with their own purpose, just like me.”

What is one of your favorite experiences when delivering a basket?

“My favorite moment is when I get to hold the babies and they look up into my eyes. When I visit, parents will often hold my hands as they look right at me and say, “Brittany, you’re a role model.” I know their children will grow up not to be like me, but to be exactly who they are—living their own beautiful purpose.”

What has been the general response from the community?

“We have been so blessed with a positive outpouring of love from the community. We now have companies and individuals who donate to us from across the country. We have knitters and crocheters from New York to California and everywhere in between who hand-make baby blankets for us. On social media, we receive photos and comments from families with babies with Down syndrome all over the world. It has filled us with gratitude.” 

What is the main message that you hope to give to families that receive a basket or have recently had a child with Down syndrome?

“As I always say, ‘People with Down syndrome can do anything—really, really anything.'”

Do people pay for the baskets or are they given free? Do you have fundraising events that people can contribute to?

“All of our baskets of hope are sent out free of charge. We want everyone to have access to our message and gifts of hope. 

There are a few ways you can donate: you can visit my website, which is brittanysbasketsofhope.org, and click the “Donate” button to support us. 

We also have fun Brittany’s Baskets of Hope clothing for sale here.

All proceeds from the clothing go directly to providing more baskets of hope.

You can also check out our Wish List and order specific items we need for our baskets here.”

Anything else that you want to share with our community?

“No matter who you are or how you’re born, your arrival deserves to be celebrated!”