When Grace Curley posted a photo album of her and her brother to Facebook last week, she had no idea the impact it would have.
The album consisted of 18 photographs featuring the 20-year-old Paris resident and her 18-year-old brother Josh posing with a series of cue cards that held an inspirational message about Down syndrome.
“I have so many friends who just aren’t aware of how hurtful the words they use can be and I thought that I could reach a lot of people,” Curley said. “A lot of my friends that use those words don’t realize that it is offensive.”
Curley's brother Josh, a happy and shy North Park Collegiate student, has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects physical and cognitive development. Together the pair used the cards to raise awareness of the syndrome and to send a message that Josh is no different than anyone else.
“People sometimes use really mean words but a lot of people love me. These words hurt, but don’t describe me at all,” the cards read. “I am...silly, funny, loving, helpful, smart and I have feelings just like you and your friends.”
The photo album was intended just for Curley’s Facebook friends, but quickly made its way across the internet with hundreds of shares on Facebook and more than 1.4 million hits on the album’s Imgur.com site.
Since she posted the album on Jan. 10, it has made its way to several sites across the internet, including Reddit.com, TheChive and the blog Bits & Pieces.
“My intent wasn’t for it to be this big thing, I honestly didn’t think it would get this far,” Curley said. “People sent it in to Breakfast Television and the Ellen Show. I was like ‘holy cow.’ This is mind-blowing. I’m still shocked. It’s crazy.”
Comments and messages to Curley and Josh have been streaming in to Curley’s Facebook account from across the globe.
“All the way from Afghanistan, you guys are wonderful! Thank you for being you,” one comment read.
“Josh, you got a friend in Texas! Big sister, you’re pretty cool yourself,” said another.
There has been some negative response to the album, but Curley said she takes it in stride.
“Some of the comments say things like ‘if he wasn’t your brother you wouldn’t do this,’ but if you knew who he was you wouldn’t be saying these type of things,” Curley said.
Curley's mother Nancy Dawdy-Curley, one of the founding members of the Down Syndrome Association of Brantford and District, said hearing words like “retarded” are incredibly hurtful to her family.
“It's hurtful because it’s a word that is the same as stupid, and Josh is not stupid. I think it just should be gone,” Dawdy-Curley said. “I think Grace’s (album) was succinct and got the message across that it’s not good to use the R-word. I think it’s used too commonly today.”
View the album at www.youtube.com/user/gracielou250. Visit www.dsabrant.com for more information on the Down Syndrome Association of Brantford and District.