The inspiration of Xtra Love

Above is a picture of Grace and her family.

Why Xtra Love?

In 2010 my daughter Anna Catherine was born with Down syndrome. We knew it was a possibility, so we prayed day and night, and had faith that it would not be our reality. When we held our sweet, beautiful little girl, we couldn’t believe it was really true.

Friends and family alike were not sure what to make of the news. The first days of her life, while we were still in the hospital, were filled with tears, grieving, and uncertainty. After a vulnerable moment when our three-year-old daughter questioned why her daddy was crying, we both decided that this was not the way we wanted to show our faces to our new baby girl or her older sister. They didn’t need our tears and fears. They needed our love. We pretty much immediately corrected ourselves. That is not to say moments of grief and fear didn’t resurface here and there. They did. But gratefully we knew to lead ourselves with love. That was the first step in this journey.

As we settled into our new life at home, we realized we had a new sweet baby. We were enjoying Anna Catherine and her big sister adored her. We discovered support from many caring friends and family that helped more than we could express.

The early years were full of the challenges children face with Down syndrome. Medical issues were at the top of the list and we learned about them as we faced them one by one. It helped that Anna Catherine was a little warrior…her personality so strong and resilient that she gave us eXtra strength to face her issues with her! She was simply amazing.

When it came time to go to preschool, we found the Rise School of Dallas — a place we felt would be perfect for her. It was a school that served special needs kids with all kinds of therapies that I didn’t even realize she needed, and it also strived for inclusion. It was her special place for the next several years and helped her bloom.

It was at this school that I met a really cool mom named Grace. Grace and I became fast friends as she was one of the first people to talk me — the new mom… I loved her right away.

Just as I was getting to know Grace, we got news that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer — -pancreatic cancer for a young mother who had a son with Down syndrome and a newborn baby girl named Anna Grace. This person that was surely going to be my new best friend was dying. It was too much for all of us. The whole school did their best to show support. We rallied, created meal calendars, visited, sent cards, and wore purple on days she had to do chemotherapy. Purple is the color of pancreatic cancer and the color of dentistry. Since Grace was a dentist, she marveled at the coincidence. Despite a fierce battle, she died a few short months later and I was absolutely inconsolable.

It has been a few February’s ago now and I still grieve. She stays with me and guides my life. Like mothers of all small children, her biggest regret was leaving her babies…especially her little boy who she knew was facing an adulthood where independence is not the norm and where she would probably still be needed. Among so many other things, her memory brings home to me daily what a blessing it is to still be with my children, no matter what life throws at me. I feel her presence. She is my special guardian angel.

One of the things I remember and loved the most was the time I saw on social media that Grace referred to the extra chromosome of Down syndrome as eXtra Love! It immediately resonated. I thought it was clever and I thought it was a great way to frame my experience. Experiencing someone with Down syndrome was experiencing extra love. It seemed so perfect, that I wanted to share. I was inspired to make it a movement and a brand.

So, I created a company called Xtra Love:

  • To create a great lifestyle accessories brand that employs an intellectually diverse workforce and gives back to the special needs community
  • To honor Grace, her life, and her family.
  • To use Xtra Love as a platform and movement.

It’s ambitious, but If we can honor my friend, inspire more love, provide employment opportunities for special needs individuals through a diverse work environment, and contribute to special needs community charities, we would ALL experience even greater Xtra Love. Wouldn’t it be nice?