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Grand Forks toddler gets Times Square spotlight

GRAND FORKS-A little boy from Grand Forks will be in a big spotlight in New York City this weekend.Eighteen-month-old Cutler James Thompson will be part of a display in Times Square on Saturday in a video for the New York Buddy Walk, an event pro...

Cutler James Thompson, 18 months, will have his photo featured in Times Square as part of a promotion for the New York Buddy Walk Saturday. The event promotes understanding and acceptance for people with Down syndrome. Special to The Forum
Cutler James Thompson, 18 months, will have his photo featured in Times Square as part of a promotion for the New York Buddy Walk Saturday. The event promotes understanding and acceptance for people with Down syndrome. Special to The Forum

GRAND FORKS-A little boy from Grand Forks will be in a big spotlight in New York City this weekend.

Eighteen-month-old Cutler James Thompson will be part of a display in Times Square on Saturday in a video for the New York Buddy Walk, an event promoting awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome.

"I just sent (Cutler's photo) in thinking, 'Oh gosh, it's a long shot,'" said Cutler's mother, Amy Sanders, who submitted her son's picture to the National Down Syndrome Society to help promote this weekend's walk.

Cutler's photo will be part of a montage of other people with Down syndrome on display in Times Square. But the toddler already is used to being the center of attention here.

"He and his girlfriend, Clara-they are kind of local celebrities," Sanders said.

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Sanders and her friend, Lana Beaton, whose daughter Clara also has Down syndrome, have a Facebook page documenting their children's day-to-day lives and the bond they have shared since they were born.

Sanders and Beaton went to school together, but they reconnected and grew close when they both had babies with Down syndrome about the same time. The site, Facebook.com/ClaraandCutler , has nearly 5,000 likes, and Sanders said strangers sometimes will recognize Cutler when they are out in public.

The Facebook page and Times Square promotion are both part of Sanders' hope to reduce the stigma of Down syndrome.

"It's not a bad thing at all. It's just a different thing," said Sanders, who teaches third grade in Emerado, N.D. "They're just people, and all they have is an extra chromosome."

The Buddy Walk is a national initiative promoted by the Down Syndrome Society. While Cutler's picture will be part of the event in New York on Saturday, another walk will be held Oct. 14 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Sanders is on the local planning committee for the event.

While Cutler is too young to understand the attention he is getting, his mom said she expects to tell him soon that "You are a pretty special guy because out of all these people you were chosen."

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