By Greg Garrison
Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Ashley DeRamus refuses to allow her Down Syndrome hold her back. As the owner of “Ashley By Design”, a fashion line of loose-fitting clothing that’s comfortable for a variety of body types, Ashley is inspiring Down Syndrome families to reach for the stars. #AMAZING
Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
On Friday afternoon, three women with Down Syndrome walked the runway at the Southern Women’s Show, showing off fashions offered by Hoover model and disabilities activist Ashley DeRamus through her personal fashion line.
“I like things that are flowing,” Ashley told AL.com after the fashion show. Ashley and two other women, Beth Olive, 28, of Pelham and Meredith Rucker, 31, of Indian Springs, took turns striding toward the audience.
“They’re my friends,” said Ashley, who is 33. “We just smile and show what we are.”
They wave and turn like they’ve seen on TV fashion shows.
“They watch ‘Project Runway,'” said Connie DeRamus, Ashley’s mother. “They’re twirling. They’re blowing kisses.”
The audience loves it. “People are so enthusiastic,” Connie said. In spite of their disabilities, the women love to show off their personalities.
“Pretty sassy,” said Kathy Olive, Beth’s mother.
“They’re strutting their stuff,” said Jennifer Rucker, Meredith’s mother.
Ashley said she helps her friends learn how to show off their personalities. “Just show people what they are able to do,” she said. “It has let me do more things.”
Ashley has done more than a dozen fashion shows and appeared in a music video by Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Jason Crabb, for the song, “Love is Stronger.” She has spoken at schools, and events highlighting people with disabilities, across the country.
Connie said that when her daughter was four years old, she began dressing Ashley as fashionably as she could, but it was difficult. Many girls’ clothes don’t fit well on girls with Down Syndrome, she said. “We would buy go clothes and then go straight to alterations and spend more than we spent on the clothes,” Connie said.
So she and Ashley began searching far and wide for clothes that did fit well. It became a clothing line called Ashley By Design. It has since branched out and offers larger, loose-fitting clothing that’s comfortable for a variety of body types from infants to adults. “We look for things that will fit anybody,” Connie said.
Proceeds from clothing sales go to support the Ashley DeRamus Foundation.
“The main mission is to give hope and to educate,” said Gary Kannegiesser, executive director of the Ashley DeRamus Foundation. “You get a new mom with a Down Syndrome baby who doesn’t know what to expect, and then she sees Ashley.”
Ashley has inspired Down Syndrome children and their parents to learn about how to expand their opportunities, he said.
That can start with something as basic as clothing and fashion. “I always wanted Ashley to look as good as the other girls,” Connie said.
On Sunday, the annual Buddy Walk and Step Up for Down Syndrome event will be held at Veterans Park on Valleydale Road from 2 to 5 p.m.
In July, Ashley received the Christian Pueschel Memorial Citizen Award at the National Down Syndrome Congress held in Orlando. The award recognizes an individual with Down syndrome whose achievements, service and contributions have enhanced the value and dignity of people with Down syndrome and their families.
“As an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a volunteer, an advocate and an athlete, Ashley distinguished herself by any measure,” said David C. Tolleson, Executive Director of the National Down Syndrome Congress, when presenting the award. “Her example shines brightly, not only for those within our community, but for all.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do,” Ashley said. “Show them what you can do.”
Learn more by clicking here for the Ashley DeRamus Foundation web site.