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Celebrities Participate in a National Public Service Announcement for the National Down Syndrome Society

Today Co-Anchor Meredith Vieira, Actor John C. McGinley, Baseball Star Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, Access Hollywood Co-Host Nancy O’Dell, Self-Advocate and former Actor from the past TV series Life Goes On Chris Burke, as well as other self-advocates will participate in a public service announcement, highlighting October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

From September 26th- October 9th, Regal Entertainment Group will air the PSA in 6,700 screens across the country. The celebrities will speak about the abilities and achievements of all individuals with Down syndrome, in an effort to raise awareness for Down syndrome and the National Down Syndrome Society’s National Buddy Walk program. For a list of Regal Entertainment Group theater locations visit: http://www.regmovies.com

“I am honored to lend my voice to this important PSA as both a journalist and a mom. Having lived with challenges in my own family, I have learned that the greatest disability of all is misunderstanding and ignorance,” said Today Co-Anchor Meredith Vieira.

“The McGinley Family is thrilled to participate in this initiative with the National Down Syndrome Society! We are proud of every frame and delighted with the message it communicates: inclusion! Our hope is that public awareness announcements like this one will help to empower people with special needs and elevate the awareness of others who might treat and regard people with special needs with respect and dignity”, said Actor John C. McGinley.

There are more than 400,000 people in the United States who have Down syndrome, which is a genetic condition caused by a third copy of chromosome 21. The average life expectancy of an individual with Down syndrome has increased from 26 in 1983 to 60 today, partly due to recent medical advances. Every year more individuals with Down syndrome are going to college, working in various professions, living independently, getting married, and contributing back to society in many productive ways.

“For almost 30 years, the National Down Syndrome Society has worked to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through national leadership in education, research and advocacy”, said Jon Colman, President of NDSS. “We are extremely grateful to the Regal Entertainment Group for their generous donation of air time, and we feel honored to have worked with such amazing and special talent.”

The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 250 affiliates nationwide representing the more than 400,000 Americans who have this genetic condition. NDSS is committed to being the national leader in supporting and enhancing the quality of life, and realizing the potential of all people with Down syndrome. We demonstrate this commitment through our education, research and advocacy initiatives that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families. For more information visit www.ndss.org

Down Syndrome Facts

  • Down syndrome occurs when, an individual has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

  • Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 733 babies is born with Down syndrome.

  • There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.

  • Down syndrome affects people of all races and economic levels.

  • The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80 percent of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.

  • People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions.

  • Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

  • Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades - from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.

  • People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many productive ways.

  • Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.