Doctors focused on what he couldn’t do. Blake showed them what he could.
True
A&E Born This Way

When Blake Pyron was born in 1996, there was almost no indication that he had Down syndrome.

He was beautiful, gurgly, and perfect, according to his mom — everything a newborn baby should be. But, there was one thing that gave the nurses pause: Blake’s big toe and his second toe were a little too wide. It's a symptom of Down syndrome, something 25-year-old Mary Ann and her 27-year-old husband never considered a possibility.

Suddenly their beautiful son, who had a world of possibilities before him a few days before, was being told exclusively about his limitations.


Blake and his mom, Mary Ann. All images via Blake's Snow Shack, used with permission.

Today, there's a wealth of information that can help parents navigate raising a child with Down syndrome. That wasn't the case in 1996.

At that time, there weren't blogs or online networks for parents of children with Down syndrome. When Mary Ann went to the local bookstore, she found a tiny section filled with negative, depressing stories. Doctors and nurses kept telling her about all the challenges she'd face raising Blake along with all the things he'd never do — like go to school or hold a job.

There's nothing wrong with a life that doesn't include those things, but Mary Ann didn't want to make assumptions about what Blake's life could and could not include.

"When Blake was two weeks old, I made a promise to him that he would never be limited," Mary Ann told Welcometoterranova. "I sat in a mall and told him 'I will never keep you from the world.'"

She kept that promise to Blake all through school.

Thanks to the support of his parents and his community, Blake had a teenage experience just like everyone else's — football, prom, a part-time job at a local BBQ joint.

Blake and his girlfriend, ready for prom.

Blake is mostly nonverbal and prefers to communicate in other ways like gestures and writing. According to Mary Ann, he's never had a problem sharing how he feels, what he needs, or what he wants. As for what he wants, that's simple. He wants to work.

But shortly after graduation, Blake found out the restaurant he worked at was closing for good.

It got him and his family thinking: Maybe it was time to consider something else, like for Blake to open his own business.

For a few months they brainstormed ideas. They traveled to Albuquerque to meet Tim Harris — of the world-famous Tim's Place restaurant — who also has Down syndrome. Everything was telling them to take the leap and start a business, so they did.

Over the next year, the Pyron family worked hard to develop a business plan for Blake.

They bought a concession trailer and ice machines, they perfected snow cone recipes, they found the perfect location. The city was supportive but didn't give them any shortcuts to success. Eventually Blake became Sanger's youngest business owner — and Texas' first with Down syndrome.

After a few sneak peek weekends, Blake’s Snow Shack officially opened for business on May 7 — Mother’s Day.

Along with representatives from the Sanger Chamber of Commerce, Blake cuts the ribbon on opening day.

It was an instant and undeniable hit.


Huge crowds of people waited in the heat for their first taste of a snow cone from Blake's Snow Shack.

From 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Blake is in the Snow Shack trailer serving up cool sweet treats from the 32-flavor menu. There are nine people on his staff and a huge crew of volunteers available for support whenever he needs it.


Blake and a member of his staff wait for crowds on a hot day at the Snow Shack.

Blake's involved in all the day-to-day operations — from managing employees to making snow cones to marketing and promotions.


Blake's shirt makes it clear who's in charge.

"When it comes down to it," says Mary Ann, "Down syndrome is such a small part of who Blake is. He's a son, he's a brother, he's a friend, he's a boyfriend, he's a business owner. He was prom king, citizen of the year, he was football captain. Now he's Sanger's youngest business owner."

As for the community uniting behind Blake, she's grateful for every minute of it. "The support that we’ve received has been priceless. Everything Blake is a community effort."


Some of the enthusiastic members of Team Blake.

Blake's Snow Shack is such a runaway success, he's already thinking of what's next.

Blake purchased a second trailer so the Snow Shack can go on location to do events, like cheering on Ty Dillon at NASCAR races, where his company logo is featured on the #95 car. There's talk of further expansion — even franchises — where people with special needs or groups supporting folks with developmental challenges can be a part of building their own business.


A very excited customer.

In the meantime, special needs kids and their families are showing up at the Snow Shack all the time for a chance to meet Blake.

Blake and a young fan.

His success as Sanger's youngest business owner is a reminder that people get to set their own limits, and they alone decide what they can and cannot do.

Every person with Down syndrome is different, and not all of them will want to — or be able to — bust barriers in the same way Blake does. That's OK. Mary Ann is more interested in how Blake's story helps other moms of kids with developmental challenges stay positive and open-minded.

"My message to moms everywhere is not to allow society’s expectations to be your child's reality. Moms can get overwhelmed by reading blogs and telling you that your child can't do anything, and they'll really never be given the change to do anything. They're wrong. Do not limit your child. Believe in your child. The rest comes together with faith and hard work."
True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via Amelia J / Twitter

Election Day is a special occasion where Americans of all walks of life come together to collectively make important decisions about the country's future. Although we do it together as a community, it's usually a pretty formal affair.

People tend to stand quietly in line, clutching their voter guides. Politics can be a touchy subject, so most usually stand in line like they're waiting to have their number called at the DMV.

However, a group of voters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received a lot of love on social media on Sunday for bringing a newfound sense of joy to the voting process.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via Jody Danielle Fisher / Facebook

Breast milk is an incredibly magical food. The wonderful thing is that it's produced by a collaboration between mother and baby.

British mother Jody Danielle Fisher shared the miracle of this collaboration on Facebook recently after having her 13-month-old child vaccinated.

In the post, she compared the color of her breast milk before and after the vaccination, to show how a baby's reaction to the vaccine has a direct effect on her mother's milk production.

Keep Reading Show less

Ah, the awkward joy of school picture day. Most of us had to endure the unnatural positioning, the bright light shining in our face, and the oddly ethereal backgrounds that mark the annual ritual. Some of us even have painfully humorous memories to go along with our photos.

While entertaining school picture day stories are common, one mom's tale of her daughter's not-picture-perfect school photo is winning people's hearts for a funny—but also inspiring—reason.

Jenny Albers of A Beautifully Burdened Life shared a photo of her daughter on her Facebook page, which shows her looking just off camera with a very serious look on her face. No smile. Not even a twinkle in her eye. Her teacher was apologetic and reassured Albers that she could retake the photo, but Albers took one look and said no way.

Keep Reading Show less