GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When people meet six-year-old Ashton, the first thing Brandi Berkhimer wants them to notice about her son is his smile.
“Like hours after he was born, he smiled his first smile, and from then on, he continued that smile, and shortly after he got the nickname My Little Sunshine Face,” she said.
About two years ago, that Sunshine Face inspired Berkhimer’s book series of the same name. It’s just one more way she works daily to raise awareness for those like her son who were born with an extra chromosome.
“As a parent, when you have a child with Down syndrome, society tries to tell you your child will never do that, they’ll never do this,” she said. “And that is not the case. Your child can, and they will.”
That’s something Berkhimer knows to be a fact. She said therapy has helped Ashton make significant strides.
“Our children are amazing, they are wonderfully made," she said. “The scripture Psalms 139:13-14 says ‘You formed my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ So I feel like it is my calling to advocate for this group of people and promote acceptance, inclusion and love, because that’s what anyone wants.”
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21. The date is chosen to represent the three copies of chromosome 21, and it’s a day Berkhimer plans to celebrate Ashton and others with Down syndrome.
She’s teamed up with her sister Tracie Putnam, co-owner of Twist Cupcakes, to host a party, complete with symbolic cupcakes, down to the smallest details.
“That little white heart represents the pure love that I’ve seen and experienced from these special people," Putnam said. "It’s almost like that extra chromosome is just absolutely full of love.”
Berkhimer hopes the world will one day show that same love for what makes her son “wonderfully made.”
“That’s what anybody wants, "Berhimer said. "We want to be accepted, we want to be included, we want to be loved, and everybody deserves that.”
Berkhimer’s World Down Syndrome Day Celebration starts Thursday at 3 p.m.
Everyone is invited to Twist Cupcakes in Poplarville to celebrate loved ones with Down syndrome.
It’s also Lots of Socks Day, so they’re asking you wear colorful socks.