There’s a magical quality about 9-year-old Giulianna. Gentle and kind, she exudes a sense of serenity. Tiny freckles across her nose crinkle when she smiles.
“Giulianna sees beauty in everything around her,” says her mom, Kimberly. “She’s such a happy child. She’s friendly and open and doesn’t judge people. It’s wonderful.”
The youngest of three children, Giulianna has experienced a lot in her young life. At birth, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Months later, Giulianna’s family learned she had two heart defects and needed open heart surgery. Since then, Giulianna has had other procedures – ear tubes, tonsils and adenoids removed, and oral surgery – but has otherwise been generally healthy.
Despite her health challenges, Giulianna maintains her sense of whimsy and wonder about the world around her. She loves playing with her sisters and friends, going to the beach and playing soccer. She also loves watching movies and YouTube.
“Giulianna has an uncanny ability to mimic,” her mom says. “She’ll watch movies or videos and then re-enact them. She’s watched Mary Poppins about 300 times and I think she could recite the entire movie.”
The same determination that drives Giulianna to intently study her favorite videos also carries through to her schoolwork. “She really pushes herself to keep learning and growing,” Kimberly says. “She’s never plateaued in her development.”
This fall, Giulianna begins second grade at Robert B. Jaggard Elementary School in Marlton, NJ. She’ll attend mainstream classes for some subjects, and get specialized education for others.
On Oct. 1, Giulianna will join her team, Giulianna’s Heart of Hope, at the CHOP Buddy Walk & Family Fun Day. Giulianna was chosen as a 2017 Patient Champion and is excited to see old friends, meet new friends and support other kids with Down syndrome.
Looking to the future, Kimberly and Giulianna have different visions.
“I want to be a dancer or a soccer player or work in a school to help kids,” Giulianna says.
Her mom adds: “I want her to be healthy and happy, to be able to live independently or with a sibling, and to have a job – not something custodial, but something creative where she can express the beauty in her soul.”