The Congratulations Project:  The Exley Family

This is our sweet little boy, Gavin. Gavin was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. Initially, my thoughts about people with Down Syndrome were extremely limited. I didn’t think he would ever live a fulfilling life. I was completely ignorant about Down syndrome. After all, Gavin was the first person I ever met with the condition. 

After receiving the diagnosis, we went to work immediately learning about what this would mean for him and for our family. We got plugged into our local Down syndrome association, began therapies, and seeing specialists. I think the most meaningful information we have gained has come from individuals who have Down syndrome themselves. Getting to know these beautiful people have tremendously impacted our ideas about how fulfilling Gavin’s life truly will be. It touched our hearts in an amazing way to have a personal, hand-written letter from our pen pal. He had some beautiful words of encouragement for our family. I hope that every family that is blessed with a child who has an extra chromosome is able to experience the heartfelt connection that PALS is building for people.

Taylor Exley

To learn more about The Congratulations Project, visit

The Congratulations Project:  The Ascherl Family

Today, the Ascherl Family shares sweet Bradyn’s Congratulations story:

“Bradyn burst in to life with the surprise of having a little something extra, he was born with Down syndrome. Everyday we are lucky enough to wake up to his smiling face. Sometimes it is hard to think of what the future may hold and how his life will be different or similar to his brothers. 

Receiving the gift as part of the Congratulations Project through PALS gave me a glimpse into an older boys life. He had aspirations of being in the Army and gave us a great drawing of Iron Man. It gives me so much hope for Bradyn’s future. Also the gifts were very sweet and Bradyn cannot get enough of the Grip n Roll Balls and plays with his brother rolling them back and forth. 

The Congratulations Project is such a blessing to new parents and new little ones! 

 Thank you, The Ascherl Family”

The Congratulations Project:  The Romero Family


This week, we hear from the Romero Family:

“Shortly after our son Colt was born we discovered that he had been gifted with an extra chromosome.  The news changed nothing for us in our minds and hearts for our love of our precious baby.  We know that Colt is just as fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect creator as our other children so why would we feel any different?  God didn’t make a mistake when Colt was being “intricately woven” and “knitted together”.

Sadly though, “CONGRATULATIONS!” isn’t always the word you hear upon sharing news of this amazing blessing.

I cannot put into words what a wonderful gift it was to not only hear that word  but to receive a letter from one of the amazing campers at Camp PALS.

We were so touched by the letter and package that we received.  I truly look up to these individuals and look for any chance that I can to hear from and talk with others who also share that something extra special.

I am so grateful to Jenni and the rest of the staff and campers at Camp PALS for helping to spread the beauty and joy in this blessing to us parents!

You are doing a wonderful thing! Thank you for celebrating our son! Keep up the great work!

Sincerely, Kelsi Romero”

The Congratulations Project: The Mize Family

During the month of September, we are featuring families who have received letters as part of The Congratulations Project. We hope these stories will bring you joy and help spread the word as we search for a new sponsor. 

“First and foremost, we would like to thank the writer of the very inspiring letter we received, “Jeremy D”, for taking the time to share his story and his goals.  As parents, we are encouraged to see that our 7 week old son will also have goals, friends and faith.  Jeremy is surely a very remarkable young man and we are most grateful to have had him grace our lives. 

Next, we would like to say thank you for the very unexpected care package that accompanied the beautiful letter.  We were initially stunned by the generosity and thoughtfulness reflected in the care package yet the more we explored it’s content the more our emotions evolved into an enormous sense of relief.  Relief because, for the first time since our precious son’s birth we felt we had heard from someone who wasn’t showing love and support “despite the Down Syndrome” but instead you were celebrating our son, everything about him, Down Syndrome and all.  To know there is an entire community that understands how important that is and who welcomes our son with enthusiastically open arms means more to us, as his parents, than we could ever say in words.  

To quote my Husband’s response “I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”  For sending out that message of love and belonging, thank you. 

Sincerely and Gratefully, Evan and Necie Mize”


The Congratulations Project: Update

Today, PALS Executive Director Jenni Newbury Ross shares an update on The Congratulations Project:

“Exactly one year ago, Camp PALS camper John Kellis and I walked into NBC studios for the filming of The Meredith Vieira Show. Together we shared about PALS and our work with the Congratulations Project. As many of you know, the Congratulations Project invites our campers to write letters to new parents of babies with Down syndrome. During this powerful segment, Meredith surprised John with a visit from Jonas and his mom, a family that had received John’s letter.  Additionally, PALS was surprised with a generous gift from Babies R Us - supplies for gift baskets to accompany the letters that we sent to these new families.

We are so grateful for this opportunity to share the Congratulations Project with the world. Since the show’s filming we have distributed almost 250 letters to new families! 

Now that the Babies R Us supplies have been utilized, we are looking for a new sponsor to help us share the powerful words of our campers with the newest members of the Down syndrome community. 

From the very start of this initiative our vision was to welcome and celebrate with parents who may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or uncertain of their future. Over the past few years, it has been our honor to be told that we’re doing just that. 

“Your package and letter was the first one we received after hearing our son’s diagnosis and it gave us such hope.”

“I am putting this in her baby book so when she gets older she can read it and see the picture of you.”

“It gave me so much hope and strength when I was still trying to figure out what DS would mean for our son…Thank you for giving me that first glimpse into what a great life he will have.”

“I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”

We will be sharing more photos and stories around The Congratulations Project as we continue to try and spread our reach. If you have any ideas about a potential sponsor or partner for this project please let us know by emailing “

–Jenni Newbury Ross, Executive Director, PALS Programs