Florida teen with Down syndrome being featured in ad campaign

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Sixteen-year-old Ethan Holt was born destined for stardom. Thanks to his shining personality and the Florida non-profit Help Us Gather, or HUG, he is on his way.

The agency held a professional headshot day for those with special needs and realized immediately and without a doubt, they had met someone amazing. 

“When he got in front of the camera, the whole staff was blown away with what a natural he was,” HUG founder Robin Lally said.

Holt, who has Down syndrome, told HUG about his dream of becoming a model. From there on, Lally says they didn’t hesitate to make it happen. 

“One in four adults have a disability but one in four adults are not represented in media. So when Ethan walked in, we realized now, here is the perfect opportunity to get someone so talented in front of those cameras. So, we decided to start a marketing campaign to get him some work,” said Lally. 

The initial campaign to land Holt a modeling gig featured photos and video of him working the camera while dressed in a blue three-piece suit. But Holt’s big break came when he caught the attention of Surf Style, a beachwear company headquartered in Florida. 

Holt just recently posed on the beach outside of Surf Style’s flagship store in Clearwater. With Holt in front of the camera and internationally-acclaimed photographer Jessica McKnight behind the camera, the magic was made.

“I’m excited for it, it’s like my dream, I want to be a model,” Holt told 8 On Your Side. 

HUG, which advocates for inclusion for individuals with disabilities, says featuring a model with Down syndrome is a win for everyone.  

“Inclusive marketing is so important and people actually want to see companies doing that,” Lally said.

Holt, even at age 16, is already thinking about his future and planning for his modeling career.  

“I get more. I’ll be a pro at it,” said Holt.

You can learn more about the nonprofit on its website.

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