Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — “It was an ugly cry.” That was Tara McCallan’s reaction when she saw her daughter’s face plastered on a billboard at one of the busiest intersections in Toronto.
But it was a cry far different than the one McCallan had when her daughter, Pip, was born 18 months ago.
This time, it was joyful. Back then, it had been painful.
Pip — the star of her mom’s Happy Soul Project — was the winner of a contest run by Indie88. Some 45,000 people voted and Pip — along with the slogan “What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful” — came out on top to win the coveted billboard spot. The original video was posted to YouTube.
“It was a feeling of redemption,” McCallan told ABC News of the unveiling. “We had come full circle.”
McCallan didn’t know about Pip’s Down syndrome until her birth.
“I so wish I could hold that mess of a woman in the hospital and tell her it would be OK,” she said, referring to her own grief on getting Pip’s diagnosis.
Pip’s already been through a lot in her young life. At five weeks old, she had her first eye surgery. She’s had two others. She was in heart failure from the time she was born until she had open heart surgery when she was five months old. The good thing about those health complications, McCallan said, was that it “made Down syndrome feel like no big deal.”
In her winning entry, McCallan wrote of her daughter:
“My daughter Pip has gone through numerous eye and heart surgeries, wears a patch, tiny contacts, little baby glasses. So I understand why some people stare at her or are curious. What I don’t understand though is those who purposely want to make fun of Pip or others with a disability. You see she also just happens to have Down syndrome.”
Through it all Pip keeps smiling. Her smile, McCallan said, “is the most contagious thing in the world.”
So much so that people from around Canada are taking road trips and flights just to get a look at Pip’s billboard.
But her new stardom isn’t going to Pip’s head. At 18 months, Pip adores her three-year-old brother brother Noal, is in love with her puppy, and was trying to put her hands in the toilet while her mom was giving ABC News an interview.
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