By Melissa Arnold
It’s been a whirlwind December for Huntington’s Brittany Schiavone.
Earlier this year, 30-year-old Brittany was chosen as one of 10 finalists in the 14th annual L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth national competition, an event celebrating the achievements of amazing women from all walks of life.
Brittany, who has Down syndrome, is the founder of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope (BBOH), a nonprofit organization that delivers care packages to new parents of children with Down syndrome.
Since its inception five years ago, BBOH has mailed or hand delivered more than 850 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico. The baskets contain educational materials, pampering products for families, a blanket and clever, Down-themed clothing for their little one.
Brittany won $10,000 for being a finalist in the competition. Her story and those of the other finalists were chronicled on L’Oreal’s website, and for one month, anyone could vote for the woman who most inspired them.
On Dec. 2, Brittany and her longtime friend, Ashley Asti, headed to New York City to prepare for the Women of Worth gala later that week, where the top finalist would be named the National Honoree.
“On Monday, a car service was sent for us and we headed into the city. That night, there was a dinner for all the finalists to meet and talk about their initiatives,” said Asti, who has known Brittany for several years. “Brittany walked to the head of the table and spoke to the group with so much confidence. She is so intuitive and took all of it in stride.”
The second day was quieter, with a full day of workshops to help the women learn more about the intricacies of running a nonprofit organization.
Finally, Wednesday arrived. Joined by her mother, Sue Schiavone, the ladies headed to the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, where they had makeovers from L’Oreal staff. “There were two people doing my hair and makeup. They gave me smoky eyes and curls. It was amazing,” the finalist said.
The star-studded gala paired each finalist with a celebrity who accompanied them throughout the night. Among the attendees were Dame Helen Mirren, Gayle King, Viola Davis, Camila Cabello, Amber Heard and Debby Ryan.
Brittany’s celebrity navigator, actress Aja Naomi King of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” spent the night sharing stories and laughs and introduced her onstage. And at the end of the night, both women cried tears of joy when Brittany was named the 2019 Women of Worth National Honoree. She had earned thousands of online votes and will receive an additional $25,000 to benefit BBOH.
“I’m so excited that I won, because now I can help even more families like mine know that they’re not alone,” the honoree said, adding that she hopes she can soon send a basket to Alaska, the only state they’ve yet to hear from.
Sue Schiavone finds herself thinking about families all over the world. “It’s nice to know that we’re not going to have to worry about where the money is coming from anymore,” she said. “Shipping costs are so expensive, and we’ve received so many messages from people in other countries asking for us to send baskets. We can start to think about that now. It opens up so many doors for Brittany, and for us.”
To learn more about Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, donate to the cause or to request a care package, visit www.brittanysbasketsofhope.org.
Photos courtesy of L’Oreal Paris