DALTON, Georgia (NBC Today) — The 2018 Gerber baby is Lucas Warren, a 1-year-old from Dalton, Georgia, who is the first child with Down syndrome to be named a Gerber baby since the contest’s start more than ninety years ago.
“He’s very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” Lucas’s mom, Cortney, told TODAY Parents. “He loves to play, loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh.”
Cortney Warren said she entered the Gerber contest on a whim after a relative pointed out an ad seeking submissions. After posting a photo of Lucas on Instagram using the contest’s hashtag, Cortney and her husband, Jason, received the news that their son had been chosen from more than 140,000 entries to be the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.
Bill Partyka, the CEO and president of Gerber, says Lucas’s smile and happy expression captured the hearts of the Gerber team.
“Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby,” said Partyka. “This year, Lucas is the perfect fit.”
“We’re hoping this will impact everyone – that it will shed a little bit of light on the special needs community and help more individuals with special needs be accepted and not limited,” Jason Warren said. “They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.”
Katie Driscoll is founder and president of Changing the Face of Beauty, a non-profit organization committed to advocating for equal representation of people with disabilities in adverting and media. Driscoll says brands like Gerber have the power to change the future of the disability community by valuing the minority as a consumer in their advertising.
“We believe if brands represent children with a disability, they are communicating their value to our society,” Driscoll said. “Moves like this move us closer to a more inclusive world.”
Cortney says she hopes her son will be seen not only as a baby with Down syndrome but also as a funny, energetic child who loves music and socializing.
“He may have Down syndrome, but he’s always Lucas first,” said Cortney. “He’s got an awesome personality and he goes through the milestones of every child… we’re hoping when he grows up and looks back on this, he’ll be proud of himself and not ashamed of his disability.”