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Seven-year-old Thunder Bay child's photo to appear on Broadway

Darius Fitzgerald has Down Syndrome and a terminal disease but shows his love for life with an infectious smile

THUNDER BAY — A young boy whose infectious smile disguises his serious health challenges is about to appear under the bright lights of Broadway.

Seven-year-old Darius Fitzgerald's photo was chosen from more than 2,400 submissions from around the world for inclusion in the annual National Down Syndrome Society Times Square video presentation in New York City.

The hour-long video – which includes photos of about 500 children, teens and adults – will be shown on two Jumbotron screens in the heart of Times Square and livestreamed on the NDSS Facebook page from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 9.

The society says their collective images promote the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with DS in a very visible way.

Darius not only has Down Syndrome, but is the only known case on Earth of a DS child who also has a rare, aggressive terminal disease called NF2.

His mother, Danielle FItzgerald, told TBnewswatch he has life-threatening tumours in his brain, eyes and spine.

"They're supposed to be tremendously painful, but it has helped with the pain. I guess children with DS don't process the pain like we do. So that's been the blessing."

She said her son has undergone multiple lifesaving surgeries in his short life, but remains a happy-go-lucky child who likes to talk and likes to be in the centre of everything.

"When the doctors told us that he was terminal, they told us to do a bucket-list of experiences for memories that we want to have with him.  So, between us and the community, oh boy, he's been experiencing everything and loving, loving life. He's been embraced by everybody, like at school. Everybody has shown him so much, given him so much strength to help him keep going."

Fitzgerald also said her 13-year-old son, Silas, has been "an amazing big brother" to Darius.

"He's had to be put through things that no child should be, like he's had to say goodbye to his brother a few times, not knowing if he was coming back out, but he did. He's been remarkable and very accepting of him and trying to make his day, each day, the best it can be."

She said the picture was taken as Darius was about to go in for an operation that he wasn't expected to survive, "so it's one of those photos that have reached and touched many people, I guess."

Fitzgerald was shocked, though, when she received an email from NDSS out of the blue informing them the photo had been selected for a video and asking to know a little more about Darius' story.

"Of course I contacted my husband right away and let him know, and then our family. We're proud that he could have that kind of legacy."

She said she appreciated the efforts of the anonymous person who submitted the picture because it will help raise awareness of Down Syndrome everywhere.

"I'm not sure who it was but obviously it was somebody who knows Darius and felt it was important to send it."

The Times Square video presentation will kick off the New York City Buddy walk in Central Park, an advocacy event that's said to be the world's most widely-recognized public awareness campaign for the Down Syndrome community

More information about Darius and what he and his family went through in his earlier years can be found here in an online article titled Darius Fitzgerald: A Remarkable, Beautiful, Miraculous Life.






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