She Doesn't Have Special Needs
She's Just Special
by: Connie DeRamus
Ashley DeRamus of Hoover, Alabama is a sister, a friend, an entrepreneur, an advocate, a singer, a public speaker, a swimmer, a music video star and a fashion creator. She also has Down syndrome. On June 21st 2019 Ashley became the first person with Down syndrome and only the second person ever to have sung the National and Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in all 50 States.
In February 2012, Ashley, along with her mother, Connie DeRamus, established The Ashley DeRamus Foundation, an organization founded for and dedicated to the education, advancement and quality of lifestyle for those with Down syndrome. The Ashley DeRamus Foundation works to increase awareness of Down syndrome and enlighten others about the rewards and positive contributions those with Down syndrome make to society.
Ashley launched her own fashion line, “Ashley by Design,” in July 2013 at the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Annual Convention in Denver, Colo. The line, described as special clothing for special people, is specifically tailored for females with Down syndrome – a perfect fit that is hard to achieve off-the-rack. The clothing, because of its fashion-forward and trendy designs, has been purchased and worn by people of all shapes and sizes and has caught the attention of California Apparel News and fashion magazines and newspapers in London and Paris. Because of her work with Ashley by Design, Ashley was also named one of the “6 Entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome Who Are Inspiring the World” by Disney’s Babble in August 2013.
Ashley made her music video debut with Grammy Award-winning Christian and gospel singer Jason Crabb in a video for his new single, “Love is Stronger.” Ashley starred in the video depicting families impacted by Down syndrome which was featured by USAToday in September 2013.
As if those accomplishments aren’t enough, Ashley recently spoke at the United Nations about living with Down syndrome and was highlighted in the United Nations Social Development Network’s “Speakers Corner” video interview.
Ashley also actively recites the Pledge of Allegiance and performs the National Anthem at special events around the country. She is available as a speaker and was a featured presenter at the 2014 Alabama Transition Conference in Auburn, Ala.
Before starting the foundation, Ashley worked as a volunteer at Birmingham’s Bell Center for Early Intervention which provides treatment for children with special needs through therapy programs. In 2012, Ashley funded four scholarships for The Bell Center’s programs through donations she collected while working on the HMS Bounty prior to its tragic sinking in Hurricane Sandy. Ashley presented three memorial scholarships – one in memory of HMS Bounty Capt. Robin Walbridge, another for mate Claudene Christian and the third for the HMS Bounty tall ship. Her fourth scholarship was given in honor of the surviving crew members.
Ashley began swimming in the Special Olympics at age 11 and through the years won 45 medals. Although she is now retired from competition swimming, she loves to spend time at the pool during her free time. She also enjoys listening to gospel music and attending gospel concerts, playing her keyboard and singing, exercising and serving as an assistant in the 4-year-old Sunday school class at her church.
In 2015 she was named National Down Syndrome Society “Champion of Change”and Down Syndrome International “Advocate of the Year” award. In 2016 she was honored to receive the “Christian Advocate of the Year” award and named “1 of 35 women in Alabama” for the Alabama Women that Shape the State.
Ashley now has a traveling boutique that carries fashionable clothing for all types of women. Choosing, along with her mother, attractive styles that flatter all body shapes and sizes. Along with special events and Southern Women’s Shows Ashley can be seen doing everything from wrestling pigs, selling clothes, having fashion shows, and several times a year she is on Capital Hill speaking with senators and congressmen, encouraging them to pass legislation to better the lives of all individuals with special needs. Ashley lives her motto every day with determination and pride in her life as a person with Down Syndrome.