National Down Syndrome Congress 40th Annual Convention in DC

Ben had the honor of singing our song while being backed-up by “The Miracles”, a choir from Senatobia, MS at the National Down Syndrome Congress‘ 40th Annual Convention in DC. “The Miracles” is comprised of 24 talented men and women living with intellectual disabilities. What a blessing to hear our song sung by angels.Image

One of my favorite bloggers, Ellen Seidman (Love That Max), shared this message on Parents.com about this event:  Thank you, Ellen!

“The National Down Syndrome Congress—And Its Amazing Guest Stars”

I am madly in love with the family who created the below video, The Wrights, not to mention the message they’re spreading. Parents Amy and Ben have four children; their youngest—Beau, 7, and Bitty, 2—have Down syndrome. As Amy says, “Since their arrival, we have made it our mission to advocate for people with intellectual disabilities and to help spread a message of inclusion and acceptance.”Many have spoken out against the use of the word “retard,” but loving videos like this (not to mention a self-composed song!) do an incredible job of spreading the word to end the word.  Amy wrote “It Starts With A Voice,” and that’s Ben singing it. Proceeds from sales of the song, available on iTunes, benefit The Special Olympics. They will be performing it at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention, happening next week in Washington, D.C., from July 19 to July 22. It’s the NDSC’s 40th convention, and in celebration the organization will be live-streaming 17 workshops and sessions for those unable to attend. You can read more about it and register (free) here.

I have a feeling The Wrights will be getting a standing ovation.

As Amy has said, “I am so passionate about spreading this message that I can’t sleep at night. I think, ‘What else can I do? How can I make the world a better place for my children and for all the others I love?’”

A-men.

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Best Buddies International Leadership Conference

ImageAs parents, we try to expose our children to experiences that will leave an impression on their lives. Experiences that help form their character and shape them into human beings that care enough to make a difference in the world. Attending the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference Opening Ceremony was one of those experiences, not only for our children, but for us parents, too. Imagine…1500+ students and leaders gathered in an auditorium chanting and cheering “Inclusion Revolution” on the top of their lungs. Standing ovations, one after another, for talented speakers, dancers and even a rock band, all living with an intellectual or developmental disability. An audience energized by the powerful leadership of Anthony K. Shriver, C.E.O. of the organization, and a special guest appearance by Glee’s, Lauren Potter. An audience full of people celebrating diversity but more importantly, the human spirit. There was an energy in the room that we’ve never experienced before, one that our family will never forget. Best Buddies International, thank you for inviting us to share our song at your Opening Ceremony. It was an honor!

We are proud to be a part of the Inclusion Revolution!

2012 National APSE Convention with Temple Grandin

ImageBen performed “It Starts With A Voice” at the 2012 National APSE Conference in Arlington VA. This organization focuses exclusively on employment opportunities for people with disabilities. He sang at the opening ceremony, where Temple Grandin, author, professor and International speaker on the topic of autism and employment was the Keynote speaker.  Lillie & Emma Grace enjoyed meeting Ms, Grandin, too!

Our visit to the Special Olympics’ Headquarters in DC

 The following blog post is written by Special Olympics’ guest contributor Kara Fleming.

Meet the Wrights.

It was only a few weeks ago when we first heard about the Wrights – a family on a mission to spread respect by seeking to end the R-word. Through fearless persistence, the Wrights have made their name and their cause known.  We first heard about them through their local news so we promoted them through our social media channels.

Amy Wright recently wrote a song called, “It Starts With A Voice,” about the difference one person can make with spreading the message of inclusion and acceptance. The family put on a benefit concert where they debuted the song and decided to donate those proceeds and part of the proceeds from sales on iTunes to Special Olympics.

On June 27, we had the opportunity to meet with them at Special Olympics Headquarters as they passed through Washington D.C.

They were happy to tell us all about their experience with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign and the reasons behind their passion. Amy and her husband Ben Wright explained that before their son Beau, 7, was born with Down Syndrome, they really didn’t understand what it meant to have an intellectual disability. When Beau was first diagnosed, they said they were “scared,” simply because they didn’t know what to do. Since then, the family has learned that people with disabilities and people without disabilities may have some differences but “what we have in common is that we’re all people.”

As a family of six in which two children have Down syndrome (Jane Adeline aka “Bitty,” 3, also has Down syndrome while Lillie, 13, and Emma Grace, 11, do not), the Wrights gained passion for spreading inclusion for people with and without disabilities. When they first heard about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, they saw it as a jumping off point.

“It’s a great way to start the conversation [for inclusion],” Amy says. According to her, their efforts in fundraising for Spread the Word to End the Word are about more than just ending a word. It all comes back to “accepting people for who they are.”

The Wrights have truly taken the goal of the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign and made it their own personal mission. Their passion for promoting acceptance through this campaign is evident even after just meeting them.

“Beyond having my four beautiful children, it’s the thing that has brought me the most joy, my whole life,” Amy stated. “I am so passionate about spreading this message that I can’t sleep at night. I think, ‘What else can I do? How can I make the world a better place for my children and for all the others I love?’”

Everything this family does is driven by love – a love for their two kids with Down syndrome, a love for their family as a whole, a love for people with disabilities, and very deep love for people in general.  The Wrights believe in the power of unity, acceptance, and unconditional love. And most of all, they believe that, “one voice CAN inspire a change.”

Quoting their son Beau’s mantra for shooting baskets, they just have to, “Never give up.”

“I am on a mission,” Amy says.  “WE are on a mission.”

The first Benefit Concert

On June 14, 2012, Ben & I hosted & performed a Benefit Concert at Thalian Hall for the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.  The concert was a family event where Ben & I sang Broadway music intertwined with powerful narration delivered by our two oldest daughters and our thirty-one year old friend, Brian, who has Down Syndrome.  The event raised thousands of dollars for the campaign, but more importantly it raised awareness.  The focus of the evening was acceptance and inclusion where attendees were educated on the campaign and encouraged to make the pledge to “End the Word”.  The evening culminated with the World Premiere of our new song, “It Starts With a Voice.” 100% of the evening’s proceeds were donated to Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.

A little history…

Since Beau & Bitty’s arrival, my husband and I have been advocating for the inclusion and acceptance of all people, especially those with intellectual disabilities.  In March 2012, I attended a support group meeting for parents of special needs children.  The guest speaker was from the Special Olympics organization and the evening’s topic was the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.  (Spread the Word to End the Word is a campaign to raise awareness of the hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using it.)  It was at that meeting that I feel my purpose in life was revealed.  This campaign mattered to me.  I began writing a song that night.  “It Starts With A Voice” was completed 48 hours later.  The rest is history…

An Introduction to our family…

My name is Amy Wright.  My husband, Ben, & I have been married for 19    years.  We met while we were both students at the University of Cincinnati  College-Conservatory of Music.  It was love at first sight!  We spent the first 5 years of our married life in and out of NYC, where we were fortunate enough to perform on Broadway.  We left New York to start a family and settled in Wilmington, NC.  Almost 2 decades later, we are the proud parents of four amazing children.  Lillie (13), Emma Grace (12), Beau (8) & Jane Adeline “Bitty” (2).  Our children are all unique and special in their own way.  Lillie is a thoughtful & compassionate young lady who loves studying Shakespeare.  Emma Grace is a most joyful spirit who loves singing & dancing and cooking in the kitchen.  Beau is our only son and he loves all of the attention his sisters give him.  He loves football and music and his favorite place on earth is the beach.  And then there’s Bitty…pure joy!  One more detail..Beau & Bitty both have Down Syndrome.  Our family is very blessed!