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4-year-old model with Down syndrome melts hearts, barriers

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Cora Slocum (Credit: Livie and Luca)

Cora Slocum (Credit: Livie and Luca)

MARTINEZ, Calif. — In the ad, she’s beaming in her back-to-school best, golden pigtails and mile-wide smile, helping sell shoes for a California company.

At the same time, 4-year-old Cora Slocum is doing something far less prosaic than selling footwear. The Martinez, California, girl with Down syndrome is melting hearts — and barriers — as part of a campaign to encourage advertisers to include people with disabilities in their sales materials.

Photos of her ad for Livie and Luca are popular on social media, with parents sharing images of their own kids with the hashtag #Imgoingbacktoschooltoo.

The resulting buzz for the company and the nonprofit Changing the Face of Beauty has been “pretty overwhelming,” Livie and Luca spokeswoman Allison Charvat said Tuesday.

“We’re very happy to see such a positive response to Cora and the campaign,” she said. “We really hope this helps advertising take a step in the right direction.”

Charvat said the company got involved after being introduced to the founder of Chicago-based Changing the Face of Beauty, Katie Driscoll.

Driscoll, whose daughter also has Down syndrome, organized a back-to-school photo shoot last year to help ease the youngster’s anxieties after she couldn’t find anyone she related to in the annual fall advertising deluge, CNN affiliate KGO reported.

Since, the organization has partnered with more than 100 companies that have pledged to include more people with disabilities in their advertising.

“The response is, ‘Wow, that was really not a big deal. We just hadn’t thought about it,’ ” Driscoll told KGO. “I don’t think they’re intentionally not included. They’re just not thought about.”

Matilda Jane Clothing is another of the nonprofit’s partners featuring a child with Down syndrome in campaigns that also feature kids without disabilities.

“Changing the Face of Beauty just fits perfectly with the heart of our brand,” the company said in a feature on the nonprofit’s website. “Denise DeMarchis, our founder, started Matilda Jane with the idea that ALL girls feel happy, carefree and beautiful. … Changing the Face of Beauty celebrates that.”

Marketing firm Kids Industries applauded the move toward greater inclusion.

“Campaigns like #ImGoingBackToSchoolToo show how many children are helped by seeing themselves in the media. Positive representation matters!”

Even before Cora and the most recent campaigns, the inclusion of disabled people in advertising has made some inroads. Changing the Face of Beauty championed actress Jamie Brewer, who has Down syndrome and modeled at New York Fashion Week.

Aspiring Australian model Madeline Stuart has also made a splash, with more than 440,000 Facebook fans.

As for Cora, the star of Livie and Luca’s campaign, company co-founder Amie Garcia told KGO the girl was “such a natural.”

“You see her image in our catalogs, and she just looks like she was born for it,” Garcia said. The company’s ads also feature Olivia Dean, a California girl with cystic fibrosis.

Cora’s parents say the response has thrilling, and they’re happy she can be a part of something to help all people with disabilities.

“If by having her picture out there kind of changes people’s minds and perceptions and stereotypes, then I think that’s, you know, a move in the right direction,” Cora’s mother, Kerri Slocum, told KGO.