Shine Project highlights people in Anchorage with Down syndrome

Telling Alaska’s Story
Shine Project highlights people in Anchorage with Down syndrome
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:30 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and photographer David Jensen is getting set to launch an exhibit featuring people with Down syndrome at the Loussac Library.

The project, called Shine, is a collaboration with Hope Community Resources.

So far Jensen has photographed 18 Alaskans, most doing what they enjoy: golfing, bowling, blowing bubbles or just having fun.

On Monday, Jensen met with 8-year-old Sam Harris and his mom Dina at the Trails End Farm on the lower Hillside. He took shots of Sam, an animal lover, enjoying life on the farm.

Dina Harris explained that Sam grew up on a farm in Alabama before the family moved to Alaska. She said her son also has sensory issues and enjoyed the different experiences that farm life afforded.

“The animals were great with him. It’s like they knew to be gentle,” Harris said.

Harris said she didn’t hesitate to get involved in the photo project, which she knew Sam would enjoy. She wants to raise awareness that children with special needs are not so different, and it’s important for them to be included.

“As a parent, I’d rather somebody come up and say, ‘can you tell me about your kid’ than to stare,” said Harris, adding that children are often not as shy as adults.

“A lot of times kids will come to me and say, ‘I can’t understand what he’s saying, why does he talk that way?’ And I explain it to them, and they’re okay and they go off and they play with him.”

Jensen said the Shine project will highlight individuals with Down syndrome with the hope that people will recognize them as valuable members of the community who enjoy interacting with other people.

“It’s very rewarding for me personally,” Jensen said. “And I hope it opens channels for other people who want to engage and be more inclusive with people who have Down syndrome, because they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends.”

The Shine exhibit will go up on the third floor of the Loussac Library October 10-31. An informal reception with some of the Shine participants will be held at the library Monday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m.