Man for All Seasons
Two years ago, Nate started casually taking pictures with his iPhone. A lot of pictures. Most were taken outdoors and highlighted some of the unique characteristics of West Chester, PA, and Sea Isle City, NJ, where Nate spends most of his time.
While Nate enjoyed taking the photos, he decided they needed something, as he says, to “funk them up.” He began applying filters to make the colors extra vibrant, then shared the embellished photos on social media.
Before long, family and friends took notice — including Nate’s employers at the Grace Winery in Glen Mills, PA, who encouraged him to do an art show at a wine tasting.
“We printed out about 50 matted photos and he sold all of them,” says Carolyn Seagraves, Nate’s mom. “Nate’s Funky Pics was born. After that, Nate started selling items with his photos at festivals and farmers’ markets. We’re working on building a website for his business now.”
Photography isn’t Nate’s only interest. He also loves to sing and dance and hopes to perform on Broadway one day. “I want to be famous and still do photography,” Nate says.
For now, Nate, 22, enjoys being a cafeteria worker at West Chester University, helping at the winery, and building his photography business. He’s also looking forward to the CHOP Buddy Walk® and Family Fun Day on Oct. 7, 2018, where he will represent other individuals with Down syndrome as a Buddy Walk Champion.
“Buddy Walk® is fun — and I get to be on stage,” Nate says.
Carolyn adds: “We’ve always done the CHOP Buddy Walk,® and we have a big team each year to support the Trisomy 21 Program at CHOP.”
Overcoming health challenges
Nate’s personality, keen sense of humor and quick wit have been nurtured by his family since childhood. He’s the third child of four, and both he and his younger sister, Lily, have Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. Down syndrome is a common chromosomal anomaly and can cause intellectual disabilities and health issues.
Nate was born with holes in his heart and fluid around his lungs. Thankfully, both issues were fixed without surgery. Nate has been treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for other issues, however, including severe sleep apnea, problems with his gait (walking) and weight issues — all of which are common in individuals with Down syndrome.
As a toddler, Nate received occupational, physical and speech therapy from Early Intervention services. In school, he received extra support, but was able to attend classes with his typically developing peers. Nate graduated from the West Chester Area School District in 2017 and began to look for a job.
Accomplishments and plans for the future
During the past two years, Nate has experienced several breakthroughs. Along with starting his photography business, he also landed his first real job — with Aramark at West Chester University. He also turned 21, so he can now go to clubs with his older sister Annie and his brother Dylan. And Nate recently got his learner’s permit.
He also has an active social life. “Nate has an amazing group of friends who he’s known since kindergarten,” Carolyn says. “He’s kept in touch with them on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram — and now most have returned home after college.”
Nate says he’d like to move out of his parents’ house and live on his own or with friends. His parents, Carolyn and Jeff, want to support Nate’s dream but also want to ensure that’s he’s safe. They are working on a plan to accomplish all of their goals.
“We want for Nate what every parent wants for their child: to be healthy, happy and loved,” Carolyn says.
Nate was recently accepted into West Chester University’s RAM Initiative Program, a two-year certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities. He is one of two students chosen for the new program which begins this fall. Nate will audit college classes, complete internships and be fully integrated into college life. He and his family are extremely excited about this opportunity.