Clearwater nonprofit orchestrates photo shoot for model with Down syndrome

Ethan Holt poses for photos as part of an advertising campaign for Surf Style. The photo shoot was made possible through the efforts of Help Us Gather, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusion.

CLEARWATER — A local nonprofit has been working hard for months to make the dreams of a model with Down syndrome come true.

On July 30, that work finally paid off.

Ethan Holt, 16, will be featured in an ad for Surf Style, a popular beachwear company headquartered in Hollywood. Holt posed on the beach outside outside Surf Style’s flagship store at Clearwater Beach. Internationally-acclaimed photographer Jessica McKnight was behind the camera.

Hiring models with disabilities is far from common practice in the advertising world today. Finding a company that is willing to show someone with special needs in their marketing has been an exceptional challenge, despite a CDC report showing 1 in 4 U.S. adults live with a disability. That’s why Help Us Gather, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusion, has been dedicated to helping Holt jumpstart his modeling career. HUG believes individuals with disabilities deserve to be included in marketing and advertising that reflects reality.

In a landscape where many companies fall short, Surf Style’s leadership is demonstrating a clear vision of the future, where inclusion plays a vital role in marketing and media.

“We know Ethan has something special and I believed that companies would choose to have people of all abilities represent them in advertising campaigns, if given the opportunity,” said Robin Lally, founder of HUG. “Surf Style has gone above and beyond to show they value inclusion and understand the importance of showing models with special needs in their marketing. They are setting the bar for companies and organizations everywhere.”

For more information about Help Us Gather, visit www.facebook.com/helpusgather.

For more information about Holt, visit www.HireEthan.org.