Editorial: Lucas, the new 'Gerber Spokesbaby,' can help raise awareness for those with special needs

At just 18 months old, Lucas Warren of Dawnville has become quite the celebrity.

Not just around Whitfield County, but around the United States. And through the power of social media, the world.

Young Lucas is the newest "Gerber Spokesbaby" after winning the company's annual photograph contest. His winning photo beat out more than 140,000 entries. For the next year, he is the face of the company's line of baby food and other nutritional items for children. You'll see him on Gerber's social media and advertising platforms.

We were excited to hear that a local resident won the contest. While the unveiling of the newest Gerber baby is always a newsworthy event, it was made even more noteworthy because Lucas is first toddler with Down syndrome the company has picked since the contest started in 2010.

What is Down syndrome?

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, "In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21."

About one in every 700 babies born in the U.S. has Down syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports some 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. yearly.

We believe having Lucas — with his unforgettable smile — will help raise awareness for those with special needs. His parents, Jason and Cortney Warren, agree.

“We are hoping it does change how people look at children and anyone with special needs,” Lucas' father told the Daily Citizen-News.

Lucas' winning photograph has captivated us. Dressed in a mint green short-sleeved shirt, set off by a blue bow tie with green and pink polka dots, Lucas is grinning widely as he clutches with both hands the cuffs of his white pants.

We're looking forward to seeing more of Lucas and his adorable smile. And we're also looking forward to him helping us see that those with special needs shouldn't be treated any differently.

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