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Boy's smile will light up Times Square


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 26, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- Soon the smiling face of Janice Allwood's youngest son will grace the Panasonic Astrovision screen at the heart of Times Square in the same way his smile has graced her life here.

Maybe it will even bring a bit of healing to the devastated city, as 2-year-old Alec shares screen time with 200 others who are surviving and thriving with Down's syndrome. His photo is part of a 30-minute video production that will be aired in New York on Sunday to promote National Down Syndrome Awareness Month this October.

The selected images were chosen because they showed the best slice of life and community involvement of those with Down's syndrome, said National Down Syndrome Society special events coordinator Christine Santee.

"It's an amazing event to witness," she said of the cheering, clapping and goodwill that infuses Times Square at the annual showing, and especially important given the times.

Already, Alec's smile and unconditional love have healed hearts before, said his family.

When the couple learned the NDSS was seeking photos to display during its launch of the 2001 NDSS Buddy Walk and awareness month kickoff, they submitted one of Alec clapping during a parade.

Despite more than 1,000 entries, "I had already expected that he was going to be in it," said Allwood with a laugh. The family does not plan to travel to New York for the event, preferring to spend their time at home and continue Alec's daily routine of speech, occupational and physical therapy at the Discovery Learning Center on Tyrone Boulevard. But they will obtain a video of the celebration, which is set to feature Goodwill Ambassador Chris Burke, who portrayed Corky on the ABC series Life Goes On, and a public service announcement by actor Tracey Ullman, an NDSS national advisory board member.

Perhaps, when he is a little older, the Allwoods will travel north for the event. "I'm going to submit (his photo) every year," said Alec's mother. For now, though, the youngest member of their family is busy trying to do everything his older brother does, and Janice is not ready to give up the soothing regularity of bedtime rituals to see her son in lights.

For her, just knowing his image is there, smiling down on New York, is enough.

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