NAPLES, Fla. - A local family is in the national spotlight after opening up their hearts and home to to the public. Their challenges, acceptance and love after their second child was born with Down Syndrome were shared online in a blog that went viral and then later, on paper when mom Kelle Hampton wrote a New York Times bestseller called, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected.
Naples mom Kelle Hampton started blogging in 2007 after the birth of her first daughter, Lainey.
"It was definitely just something for me. Almost like a digital sort of scrapbooking," explained Kelle. "...I think things changed for me obviously after Nella's birth because readership grew immediately."
In 2010, Kelle and her husband Brett welcomed their second daughter Nella into the world. Her birth was captured on video and in pictures in anticipation of the celebration of life.
What Kelle and her husband hadn't anticipated, was that Nella was born with Down Syndrome.
"I think the picture that everyone talks about is the one with the toast. That moment that I knew and nobody else knew," Kelle told us about one of the pictures on her blog.
Kelle used her blog and later her book, to express all the raw emotion that she had felt on that day and the days after Nella's birth.
"When we hide things under the rug it's never going to go away. When I wrote those hard-to-say things, like 'I cried and I didn't welcome her the way I had wanted to,' [or] 'I wanted to run away'... I didn't even realize how shocking that was until a week later when you start getting criticism," recalled Kelle.
While the criticism came, so did the praise and the heartfelt responses from others dealing with similar situations.
"The book is about a lot of my own growth and that first year after Nella. What I had to do; self talks to myself and it goes a little bit back into my past and talking about you know, excepting people for their differences," said Kelle.
Kelle explained that part of excepting people for their differences, includes letting go of the stereotypes.
"I realized ok, we're not going to go into this with any limitations... We treat her and have the same expectations from her as our other children," she said. "...[Nella] is a typical three-year-old. She speaks well, she plays well, she fights with her sister. Those aren't things, I don't know why, but I didn't think she would have that. I didn't think our life would look like that when I was told she had Down Syndrome."
And while her book chronicles the first year of life with Nella's, Kelle's blog keeps the story going.
"For Down Syndrome it's a story about raising awareness about stereotypes being changed. It's a story of more people get to see our daughter's life and to see that she's just like any three-year-old," Kelle said.
While the Hamptons enjoy each day and every moment, they realize challenges lie ahead, not only with helping Nella grow and develop into an independent adult, but challenges within the community as well.
"There's not enough in the community for these individuals to do. There's not enough employment opportunities. For me, looking down the road for Nella, what do I want for her? I want her to be happy. I want her to have opportunities. I want people to recognize her capabilities. I want people to give her a chance," she said.
For more information on Kelle's family life, or for more information on her book, you can check out her blog Enjoying the Small Things