Student project features Winnipeg families, people living with Down syndrome like Grant Hrehirchuk
A new short film being screened in Winnipeg Sunday focuses on the abilities of people born with Down syndrome, says the filmmaker.
Holly Giesbrecht, the Red River College student behind the documentary Bringing Up Down Syndrome, says she wanted to do the project to break down barriers.
"I've grown up knowing a few people with Down syndrome and I've worked as a respite worker and I just love all people, and I wanted people with disabilities to be looked at the same way as everyone else," said the creative communications student.
"And I thought this would be a good step to kind of take on that stigma of Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities and just to show people how capable and awesome they are."
One of those awesome people is Grant Hrehirchuk, a Winnipeg student in Grade 1 who is featured in the film.
Asked how he liked being in a movie, Grant responded "Good. Because I love it!"
His mother, Donna Hrehirchuk, said she was initially a little hesitant to appear on film. "[But] I saw a little snippet of it and she did a great job, so I'm really excited for it tomorrow.
"Holly asked if we'd like to be part of it, and I'd love any chance to share Grant with the world because he's wonderful and exciting."
Holly Giesbrecht, Donna Hrehirchuk and Grant Hrehirchuk in the CBC Manitoba radio studio Saturday morning. (Elisha Dacey/CBC)
She and Grant's father were unaware their son had Down syndrome before he was born, said Hrehirchuk.
"It was like a mourning, almost, of the typical life that he could have. But with all the other issues that he had when he was born, it was really on the back burner. And we were just so happy that he survived and that he was with us that it didn't matter anymore."
Hrehirchuk said she feels hope for Grant, especially since a child with Down syndrome was just chosen to be the newest Gerber baby.
"It's an amazing thing if you think of it. Five years ago that would never have happened — two years ago, that might not have happened. There's so much awareness and there's so much acceptance, the inclusion in school — it's just an amazing thing.
"At school, Grant is Grant. He's not the little boy with Down syndrome, he's Grant. Everybody loves him, so it's neat."
Giesbrecht said she's hopeful her film will lead to discussions and continue to shift people's perceptions.
"I really hope that people just start conversations and they just start …looking at people with a very open mind, and just knowing that they're just people like us and that they can do anything they want to do. You just gotta treat them like anyone else."
The movie is being screened for free at the Frederic Gaspard Theatre at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2:30 p.m.