In April, Beverly florist Steve English and Palos Park photographer Katie Driscoll tag-teamed for a project to use special needs children in ad campaigns.
A few months later, word of mouth spread so quickly that one of Driscoll’s photos made the cover of the summer edition of Chicago Special Parent magazine and one of Driscoll’s blog entries was featured on Maria Shriver’s website.
The project, called Changing the Face of Beauty, is gaining steam and English is helping to coordinate and connect parents and children with local businesses.
“I thought it would be interesting to take a child that was not considered beautiful by society’s standards or children who were treated as invisible and photograph them for ads,” English said. “I said to Katie that we should take photographs of our merchandise with the kids. Then we started a Facebook page, and I was amazed at how rapidly people from all over the country were interested in what we were doing.”
English, who co-owns the Blossom Boys with Ryan Steinbach, adopted a boy who had a congenital heart defect 30 years ago, has a soft spot in his own heart for special needs children.
When he recently heard a story about 7-year-old Abby Scott of Chicago, his ears perked up. A few weeks later, she was the cover girl of Chicago Special Parent magazine.
“I heard that people were honking at a little girl with a walker because she was taking too long to cross the street,” he said. “I said ‘Who is she?’ Who is her mom?’ So we contacted her and asked if she wanted to do this. Chicago Special Parent saw this on Katie’s blog and did a story on Face of Beauty and put her on the cover.’’
Most of these new models pose for ads for English’s business, which also includes selling fair trade items at his store, at 9911 S. Walden Parkway, but he is hoping to get other area restaurants and clothing stores to use them.
“In my 63 years, this is the most spiritual thing I’ve ever done in my life,” English said. “Not only has it been great for the kids modeling, but parents of other special-needs kids tell me their kids feel good seeing those ads. It really helps their egos and self-esteem to see someone like them doing this.”