Down syndrome toddler named new face of baby food maker Gerber

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An 18-month-old US boy with Down syndrome has been named by baby food maker Gerber as its "Spokesbaby" for 2018, the company said on Wednesday, an action hailed by advocates for people with the genetic condition.

Lucas Warren of Dalton, Georgia, won Gerber's annual photo contest over 140,000 entries with his "winning smile and joyful expression," Gerber Chief Executive Bill Partyka said in a statement.

"Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber's longstanding heritage of recognising that every baby is a Gerber baby, and this year, Lucas is the perfect fit," Mr Partyka said.

Gerber has held the photo contest since 2010, although parents have been sending photos of their infants to the company throughout its 90-year history, Mr Partyka said.

The Warren family will receive $50,000 (S$66,500) from Gerber, and Lucas will take "a front seat" on its social media channels.

Lucas was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the extra copy of chromosome 21 changes how a baby's body and brain develop, which can present mental and physical challenges.

"We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have the potential to change the world," Lucas's mother, Cortney Warren, said in a statement. - REUTERS