baby with Down syndrome
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 23, 2024 ·  5 min read

Doctors suggested girl with Down syndrome be institutionalized – fast-forward 15 years and she’s a top model

Kennedy Garcia was born May 16, 2004, with Down syndrome. Although medical professionals wanted to have her institutionalized, her mother declined, and Kennedy went on to achieve great things. Kenedy was diagnosed as a newborn and has overcome many obstacles, including more than 30 surgeries.

At three years old, she was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, which affects blood and bone marrow. Sadly, children with Down syndrome are 150 times more likely to battle Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, than those born without traits of Down syndrome. Regardless, Kennedy beat the odds and went on to model for American Girl, Disney, and Claire’s. She also partnered with Kenzie Ziegler in a campaign for Justice.

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A post shared by Kennedy Garcia (@kennedyjean04)

When Doctors told Kennedy’s mom, Renee, that the young girl would have a low quality of life due to the struggles accompanying Down Syndrome, Renee was determined not to let the condition deter her daughter. “The night Kennedy arrived, I was heartbroken to learn she had the condition because I was being fed nothing, but a negative, bleak picture painted by doctors and nurses who really had no idea what my child‘s future really held,” she said.

It turns out that medical professionals were concerned that Kennedy would have to wear adult diapers or nappies. A fact that can be embarrassing for many. However, that never seemed to slow the young girl down. “It was only the next night when a kind midwife told me Kennedy was beautiful and just like her daughter. Who also had the condition, that I felt a glimmer of hope.” Renee continued, “The first thing I asked was if her daughter could walk. Because I really didn’t know what having the condition meant, and she just laughed. Her daughter was 16 and of course she could walk.”

Down Syndrome Didn’t Stop Her

Kennedy, not letting Down syndrome minimize her quality of life, has gone on to compete in state-wide dance competitions. She’s also done some modeling and is now a public speaker. Kennedy proves to others with Down syndrome that they can have a well-rounded and fulfilled life. Kennedy has an Instagram account with more than 140,000 followers. Furthermore, she has a YouTube channel on which she records videos of her dancing.

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A post shared by Kennedy Garcia (@kennedyjean04)

“It’s shocking how misinformed they all were, and it was only 15 years ago. I feel sad that I wasted time grieving for moments like prom dress shopping as I really had been led to believe none of the normal milestones would be reached.” Renee said in regard to the Down syndrome Diagnosis. “We’re all incredibly proud of her and everything she’s achieved. She’s a wonderful girl and we are all so lucky to have her in our lives.”

Overcoming the Odds

In recent years, as medical and technological advances have been made, there’s more widespread knowledge regarding certain birth defects such as Down syndrome. As such, many people have shifted their perspectives from shunning those who are born with “abnormalities” to nurturing a more inclusive society that celebrates people regardless of their differences.

Better Understanding Down Syndrome

While much is now known about Down syndrome, many people have misconceptions about the condition. Firstly, children born with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of Chromosome 21; this replication causes the mutation that has become medically recognized as Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21. Although Trisomy 21 is the most common variation, at around 95%, there are two other types of Down Syndrome, called Translocation and Mosaic Down syndrome.

Not Just Down Syndrome

In some cases, children born with Down syndrome can have delayed or slurred speech, notable facial features like a flattened face, small ears, hands, and feet, and almond-shaped eyes. The severity of the condition can vary, with some people having lifelong obstacles to overcome. Although Down syndrome is not fatal, other conditions are associated with it. In Kennedy Garcia’s case, she was diagnosed with a type of rapidly progressing Leukemia. For generations, medical professionals were perplexed as to why so many children with Down syndrome also face certain life-threatening conditions such as Leukemia.

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A post shared by Kennedy Garcia (@kennedyjean04)

According to researchers at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down syndrome, the cause may have something to do with stem cells. Down syndrome is a chromosomal mutation but apparently can also cause cell mutations that build up, overpowering healthy cells.

Although there is no official “treatment” option for children with Down syndrome, there are various skill-building programs that help children stay up to date in hitting their milestones on time or around the same time as other children their age. Early intervention is an important step for combatting the challenges associated with Down syndrome because the sooner “treatment” can begin, the more likely a child will be able to build stronger muscle mass, stronger skills, and more confidence in their physical and intellectual abilities. A Genetic Counselor may also be an advantageous resource for parents to address future pregnancies.

A Common Condition

Down syndrome is one of the most common birth defects in the US. An average of around 6,000 babies born annually are diagnosed with Down syndrome. Therefore, roughly 1 in 700 babies will have the condition, according to the CDC.

Fortunately, there are people like Kennedy Garcia, fighting against the stigma of Down syndrome, proving that anyone can lead a happy life, if they’re fueled by love and are given the proper tools and support from friends and family.

Keep Reading: Victoria’s Secret Unveiled Its First Model With Down Syndrome


  2. Facts about Down Syndrome.CDC
  3. Kennedy Garcia.” IMDB
  4. Kennedy Garcia.” Famous Birthdays
  5. Down Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic
  6. Doctors wanted to put girl with Down syndrome in an institution – 15 years later, she’s a top model.Newsner. Michael Panter. February 20, 2020