Rheana Murray on TODAY Parents
A Utah dad hopes the adorable photos of his young son "flying" through beautiful scenery can help send a positive message about Down syndrome.
The photos of the young boy soaring through the air have gone viral, and dad Alan Lawrence said the project is a way for him to prove to the world that even kids with Down syndrome, like his son William, can live magical lives.
Lawrence, from Paradise, Utah, said he's ashamed to admit that he once thought his new son would be a burden because of his disability. But he had it all wrong, he said.
"This project is a way for us to show how much our son has blessed our family," Lawrence said. "He's not a burden, he hasn't limited us. He's opened the door to so many new things, to new experiences."
Lawrence and his wife have four other children and another son on the way. William is the youngest and was born in October 2013 — and he's wanted to fly ever since.
"He arches his back and puts his hands out. I never pose him, that's the funny part — he just naturally wants to fly," Lawrence said.
It makes for great photos. Lawrence, an art director who does photography on the side, started taking pictures of his son assuming the "flying" pose and then edited him into gorgeous backdrops or funny situations — like one in which he looks like he's soaring above a field of cows.
Family and friends loved the photos so much that Lawrence is now trying to produce a series of calendars. The family also launched a Kickstarter campaign called "Bringing Light" to raise money for a road trip so they can take more photos at scenic spots, and meet other families with children who have Down syndrome along the way. So far, they've raised more than $2,000.
William is a "ham in front of the camera," and the rest of the family is just fine with letting him be the center of attention, Lawrence said. The boy is also helping his siblings grow in ways Lawrence never imagined.
"We were in the grocery store the other day, and my 6-year-old daughter saw this older girl with Down syndrome, and she tugged on my arm and said, 'Look at that girl, she has Down syndrome,'" he recalled. "And she said, 'She's beautiful.' I could tell it was real. I just loved that."
Lawrence hopes his son's story helps encourage parents who are worried about raising a baby with Down syndrome.
"If you go to Google right now and you type in Down syndrome, the first thing that pops up is probably WebMD or Wikipedia—technical things like life expectancy and health problems," he said. "It's information people need to know, but we also want the good, inspiring, happy messages of how these kids give back to the world to rise above that. That's the hope."