When Tara’s daughter, Pip was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at three days old, she started the Happy Soul Project as a means for processing and sharing her story.
Nine years later, Happy Soul Project has become a non-profit organization that drives change and advocates for inclusivity. We first met Tara when she shared the sweetest photo of her and Pip in their matching S+T Rompers. Their positivity and message that #differentisbeautiful inspired us so we knew we had to reach out and learn more about this powerful mother-daughter duo. Let's get to know Pip & Tara!
You started Happy Soul Project when your adorable daughter, Pip was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. What type of connections have you made since launching? What has been the impact of sharing your story with the world?
Sharing my story has saved my life. My world was flipped upside down when Pip was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, along with several other disabilities. Navigating and learning how to be a mom and an advocate has been tireless, lonely, insightful, extraordinary and humbling. I know without a doubt, however, that this was all meant to be.
In her nine short years on earth, Pip and the Happy Soul Project have moved people and shifted their perspective on disabilities. What started as a place to share my story has become a larger initiative to spread our message that #differentisbeautiful.
Happy Soul Project has become a worldwide campaign, featured in international publications, influencing global brands and even getting shoutouts from celebrities like Tyler Cameron and Britney Spears!
Despite not loving public speaking, I have had a number of opportunities to speak as an advocate. I have given a Ted Talk, been a keynote speaker at numerous conferences and given a variety of talks to future doctors and teachers about my experiences with Pip in hospitals and schools.
To this day, I would say my greatest act of redemption in grieving my daughter’s Down syndrome diagnosis is the letter I was asked to write to new parents, that is now included in every single “New Parent Package”, when a Down Syndrome diagnosis is given in Canada.
This project, inspired by my daughter, has given me purpose and a platform to show that representation matters, change is still needed for those with disabilities and that we should celebrate the extraordinary beauty in all our differences.
Tell us a little more about Kick-It-Capes, an initiative to support kids battling cancer.
Our Kick-It-Capes Project was inspired by one little boy and one little cape. It has now reached thousands of kids across the globe! When my best friend’s son, Maiysn was diagnosed with cancer, I put out a call for help to the Happy Soul Project community to make him a superhero cape. From there, this project continued to grow. These capes have hung on IV poles as kids received chemotherapy, they have embraced those waiting a devastating diagnosis and have unfortunately, too many times, been laid on caskets as symbols of bravery. From volunteer cape makers, highschool class projects, to communities that have ran sewing bees, this project is sadly never-ending as there are always children in need of a cape.
How do you foster confidence and resilience in Pip so she always remembers #differentisbeautiful?
I wish I could take credit for my daughter Pip’s confidence. She is the definition of refusing to sink. I started this project to teach all my children to confidently be themselves, but it is Pip who is living that lesson and showing me daily how to love yourself and keep showing up, no matter what. She is the strongest, sassiest person I know—I want to be more like her!
What has been the most challenging part of raising a daughter with Down Syndrome? And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of raising a child like my daughter, is getting to see life through her eyes—it’s absolutely magical. Her joy is contagious and I feel lucky every day that she is mine. However, the most challenging part is how some people don’t value or see worth in people like her. From the beginning, when Pip was just a few days old in my arms, a genetic specialist looked at me after confirming her diagnosis and said: “If you choose to have another baby, we can prevent this from happening again.” I was STUNNED. This lack of acceptance and compassion changed me. In that moment I knew I wanted to help shift perspectives around this disability. I want to fight and lead the path for parents of children like Pip in the future.
You are a busy mom of three! How do you create space for yourself to rest and relax?
This is a hard one, especially in today’s time. All my kids have been remote learning since the pandemic started, so rest and relaxation is hard to come by. Pip not only happens to have Down Syndrome, but my daughter was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease at two and Type 1 Diabetes at three. So, there really is no break when it comes to being a parent. When time allows, I absolutely adore hanging with my girlfriends, eating any type of deep-fried appetizer saturated with gluten, the escape of reality TV, a few glasses of bubbly and writing my heart out on the Happy Soul Project.
Aside from baking, what do you and Pip love to do together? What does your ideal mommy-daughter day look like?
Pip lives for “Girl’s’ Day”. Every morning she asks me: “Mom is it a school day or girls’’s day?!” I adore that she adores me. When we’re not baking (which is her fave), she likes to play makeup, put on concerts and make TikToks (watch this one where she rocks her S+T Romper like a BOSS).
Who do you turn to for comfort or inspiration when life with your littles gets tough?
Believe it or not, besides my little family, I turn to Happy Soul Project. It has been such a source of therapy for me. Sharing my life with this community of people who proudly claim they are #PipsArmy has helped so much. They have listened, uplifted us when we needed it, supported and helped make our non-profit projects soar. The fact that a beautiful community of people have come together to inspire change, inspires me.
How can our readers support your vision of advocating for inclusivity and celebrating differences?
People need to understand that a diagnosis can't predict the extraordinary love someone will have for their child. A doctor can’t predict the fierce value a parent will place on their baby’s life. A friend might not realize that a child is an individual made up of so much more than a disability, and a stranger can't possibly know the magical insight someone gets to experience by seeing life through the eyes of someone with Down Syndrome. So, you can think with kindness and compassion through the lens of inclusion and representation. Teach others around you to do the same.
Head to the Happy Soul Project to learn more and to donate, shop or nominate a child for a Kick-It-Cape.
You’re amazing, Tara and Pip!! Thanks for sharing you story with us.