A recent Target ad featuring a child model with Down syndrome is helping one dad blogger raise awareness about the chromosomal condition.
This week, Rick Smith praised it on his blog, NoahsDad.com, which tells the story of the Smith's life with his son Noah, who has Down syndrome.
Smith gratefully described how Target had included someone with a disability without making a big deal about it.
The story of the Target ad as well as Smith's post has gone viral, spreading through the media and resulting in the post receiving more than 16,000 Facebook likes, more than 3,000 tweets and 261 comments, Smith said.
Spreading along with it is the core message of NoahsDad.com: "Down Syndrome is OK." Everything is fine with Noah. Advertisers and TV shows like "Glee" are getting it, and - perhaps most important to Smith - so are parents.
In a section on the blog titled " Our Story," Smith reveals how he himself absorbed that message. After the shock and confused sorrow following the news about Noah, Smith, a self-described "tech guy," went online to learn what his life would be like.
"The videos were all so weird and sappy," he said. "People need to know it's not this sad thing," Smith said he told himself.
Smith bought the Apple video-editing program Final Cut Pro and with his iPhone as a camera, started shooting one one-minute video of Noah each day.
Sometime in May, NoahsDad.com was born.
"It took off like crazy, with people all over the world, on pretty much every continent," Smith said.
In one third-world village, Smith said fans used video of Noah's physical therapy as a guide for giving therapy to people with Down syndrome, because they didn't have access to it themselves.
Another blog visitor, who was preparing for the likelihood of having a Down syndrome child, wrote to Smith to say he watched Smith's videos every night with members of his family to learn and take comfort.
Most of the blog's content is simply Rick Smith's accessible, funny descriptions of the one-minute videos showing everyday life with Noah.
"Fear is very crippling," Rick Smith said. "If we can just show you what life can be like, take away that fear for you, you can have courage."
Smith said that "90 percent or 92 percent, depending on the study" of parents who learn through prenatal screening that they have a relatively high chance of having a child with Down Syndrome abort the pregnancy.
A new blood test, less invasive and risky than amniocentesis, makes it easier than ever to screen for Down syndrome, he said.
"Unapologetically, one of the main purposes of the blog is to encourage these parents to follow through with the pregnancy," Smith said.
"I'm not yelling or picketing outside an abortion clinic," he added. "I'm more creative. I believe in the power of story, of inviting people into our story."
NoahsDad.com integrates Smith's life and faith with his strong interest in social media. A self-described "early adopter," Smith was one of the first people on Twitter, he said.
"God has given us these tools to reach people," he said. "How can we use them to further good in the world?"
He recently blogged about a couple featured recently on ABC World News who adopted a girl from Ukraine, where Down syndrome children were found living in adult mental institutions.
"They're treated like outcasts," Smith said. "Families are embarrassed by them. It's so heartbreaking."