We had a book signing at Barnes and Noble recently and had a great time! Thanks to the folks at the Willove Grove, PA Barnes and Noble for hosting us!

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Matt and Anna, featured in the book, loved signing books for visitors

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Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

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We had crafs for kids of all ages. 

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We asked them to draw their Reasons to Smile!

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"My reason to smile is my daughter Caroline and my granddaughter Lucy. We have been blessed twice!"

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Andy, co-editor of Reasons to Smile, poses with some friends

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Mallory gets an autograph from Anna

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Matt, Elizabeth, and Anna hanging out in Barnes and Noble

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Matt's reason to smile is holidays!

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Anna's reason to smile is Starbucks!

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And....Reasons to Smile next to Bruce Springsteen's autobiography :)

 

Dylan Kuehl (pron. Keel) is a visual artist, musician and dancer from Olympia, Washington who received his first drum kit at the age of three. Dylan was born with Down syndrome and has always lived life to the fullest and dreamt big, and now at the age of 33 has a jewelry line, an inspirational DVD, and a musical project called the Jackson Memory Band, which he formed after Michael Jackson’s death in 2009.

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One of Dylan’s biggest dreams came true on June 17th, 2016 when he had the opportunity to meet members of Michael Jackson’s family — mother Katherine, brother Jermaine, and son Blanket — made possible by the non-profit organization Gifts from the Heart for Downs. Dylan performed his Michael Jackson dance moves in the very ballroom where the Jackson 5 rehearsed in Los Angeles, paying tribute to one of his heroes. His dedicated and heartfelt routines brought both Jermaine and Katherine to tears.

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Gifts From the Heart For Downs was founded in 2010 by Kimberley Adams, a single mom who adopted two children with Down syndrome. The non-profit grants wishes for items such as adaptive bicycles, vacations to places such as Disney World, and she's been successful at making contacts with celebrities such as Julie Andrews, Brett Favre and John Travolta. Dylan was one of the first requests she received. After six years of networking, Kimberley finally made contact with someone close to the Jackson family.

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For the special day, Diva limousine company donated their services, and Dylan and his mother Terri rode from their gifted Marriott hotel to Hayvenhurst Mansion, the old home of the Jackson family. Jermaine gave them a tour of the estate, now vacant, which is being considered for a tourist attraction. In one room, there is still a mirror where Michael wrote “THRILLER 100,000 COPIES” and looked at it every day, trying to make it happen. That’s the kind of visualization that Dylan uses in his daily practice, with encouragement from his mother Terri. “That’s who we are, we dream it and then we make it happen,” she says. “That’s a really a great lesson for Dylan.”

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After the mansion tour, Dylan danced two pieces — “Stranger In Moscow” and “In The Closet” — for Jermaine, in the chandeliered ballroom where Jermaine rehearsed with the Jackson 5 playing bass. The music came from a Michael Jackson video played off an iPad, which Dylan has watched religiously, perfecting his moves to mimic Michael’s; Jermaine commented that Dylan hit every single move of Michael’s. Tears came to Jermaine’s eyes during Dylan’s performance, and he called his mother Katherine, and asked if she would be up for a visit. He thought Dylan was someone she should meet. She agreed.

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 At Katherine’s home, Dylan met Katherine as well as Michael’s son Blanket, whom Dylan bonded with over Star Wars. Dylan danced his “In The Closet” performance. Katherine said she’d never met anyone like Dylan before; they hugged and Dylan cried with her. Dylan’s mom Terri recalls: “Katherine said, ‘Every day I wake up and I think about Michael,” to which Terri replied, “Dylan does too.” Katherine said that Michael was shy, but once you put him on the stage, his star power shined through, which is how Dylan is too. Dylan’s birthday, June 25th, is also the day that Michael passed away, so while Dylan’s birthday is now a day of mourning, it also marks a day of rebirth and keeping Michael’s music alive.

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Dylan gave Jermaine and Katherine pieces of glass jewelry that he created, and extras for Katherine to give to Michael’s daughter, Paris. Dylan gave Katherine many of his watercolor postcards, and she plans to enlarge one called "Barn Life" and hang it in her home. Dylan also gave them “Down Syndrome Rocks!” T-shirts and “Michael Jackson Memory Band” T-shirts, as well as a copy of the book in which Dylan is featured — “Reasons to Smile: Celebrating Living with Down Syndrome” — which Dylan dedicated to Michael. Dylan also gifted them his DVD titled “Reach Dream Celebrate Abilities: 4 Easy Steps To Build Your Own YES Team.”

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After the dream meeting, Diva limousine took Dylan and Terri to be treated at the Hard Rock Café on Hollywood Blvd. Dylan ordered a non-alcoholic Mango Berry Cooler, and they played MJ songs for him such as “Billie Jean” and “Black And White” as Dylan shoulder-shrug danced along. Inspired by this miraculous day and encouragement from Jermaine, Dylan talked about really amping up his Jackson Memory Band, and started discussing new members for the cover band, for which he drums, plays percussion and dances. Dylan's band has been created to show the greatness of Michael's music, but also to promote inclusion of people of all abilities, and the healing power of music. “I just need to keep his music alive. That’s all,” Dylan says of Michael. “So he won’t be forgotten.”

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Photography by Bailey

We are finally unwinding from our whirlwind trip to Orlando, Florida where we attended the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention (NDSC). It was the first time we attended, and we left with full hearts and big smiles.

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We went to exhibit the book Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome, a book of inspiring short stories about Down syndrome.

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Anna Knauss, who is featured in the book, enjoyed signing autographs.

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We loved having people included in the book, such as Jared Kozak, stop by to say hi!

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Many people from Down syndrome organizations stopped by and asked about bulk orders for their gift baskets they give to new parents and families. If you are interested in bulk orders at a discount please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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We also had a contest for someone to win this gift basket, which included baby toys, diapers, and of course the book! Andrea won the gift basket saying she knew a new family who would be blessed by it.

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Meeting Megan Bomgaars and her mother Kris Bomgaars from the A&E show Born This Way was awesome!

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Anna, a fashionista in her own right, was inspired by Megan Bomgaars who runs her own clothing business Megology.

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The dance wasn’t like any dance we’ve ever been to before. It was packed and the energy in the room was truly magnetic. Anna danced her socks off and met new friends.

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The Award's Dinner was also packed and we enjoyed a nice meal while listening to inspiring speakers.

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The lazy river at the JW Marriott was fun to dip into after a day at the conference.

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A highlight of our experience was taking a family trip to Disney.

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Anna loved the teacup rides and meeting Disney princesses.

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Some of the greatest moments of the conference were when new parents visited our table—sometimes, with a baby with Down syndrome in their arms or asleep in a stroller. Seeing their smiling faces as they flipped through our little book, looking at the many strong individuals on each page, knowing things were going to be okay, made the trip a once in a lifetime experience.

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See you next year in Sacramento!

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Jan
16
Reasons To Smile Book Release
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Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome

Edited by Andrea Knauss & Elizabeth Martins, Foreword by Keith Harris

28
Sep
15
Project Launch On Kickstarter
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Thank you so much for your support! We launched the campaign just this past Sunday and were so heart-warmed that people responded so quickly. We will continue our outreach next week, but we wanted to thank everyone who has helped thus far. We are excited to share this book very soon! :) We could not do this without you.

 

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Reasons to Smile is web and book series consisting of inspiring stories, by and about people living with special needs.

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