Here at Surf Style we believe in the importance of representation, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create an atmosphere of inclusion in all of our stores. In July of 2019, Robin Lally and her team at Help Us Gather approached Surf Style with an opportunity we simply could not refuse. Help Us Gather, or HUG for short, is a nonprofit organization advocating for the inclusion of people with special needs; their main goal is “to provide every individual a sense of inclusion, confidence and friendship.”
It was through HUG we were introduced to Ethan, an aspiring model with Down Syndrome. We jumped on the opportunity to include Ethan in our marketing, not only because of his incredible charismatic personality and love of the camera, but also to set an example of inclusion.
Ethan Holt is a Florida native, currently in his junior year of high school. With a carefree spirit and active lifestyle, Ethan has accomplished more than most his age. He has a love of soccer, baseball, and wrestling, and is involved in sports both inside and outside of school. But what makes Ethan a great representation of our brand is in his commitment to water sports.
“He’s definitely that active guy that you would expect to be representing the brand.” says Lally.
He currently swims for both his high school’s team, and the Florida Division of the Special Olympics. He is also on the Special Olympics paddle board team. While participating in the Special Olympics, Ethan has won multiple gold medals on both a regional and state level.
Ethan’s mother, Phoy Holt, goes on to explain, “Anytime he gets to compete, whether its paddle board or swimming, he always gets gold.”
Ethan is undeniably competitive in nature, and yet charismatic in all areas of his life; so it comes as no surprise that he has always been a performer at heart. “He wants to be a YouTuber; he wants to be a social media influencer; he loves to sing, and dance, and rap; he gets into all kinds of things.” said Holt.
It was through HUG Ethan realized his potential for modeling. “Of course in the special needs community we have lots of friends that are involved with HUG, so they would post different events, and share them on Facebook; and I thought that looks like an organization that we should be a part of.” Holt explains, “Robin and her team had a photo shoot, this was our first event with them, and I said ‘you could wear anything you want’ so he picked his three piece suit.”
“I pretty much followed them out [after the photoshoot] he was working the camera so well to where every shot was amazing.” Lally said, “He studies it, you know, he practices. So that’s when I realized, if he’s willing to do the work, and he gets it, then he’s good at it; so we thought he could make a career out of it. Models know how to move, and he brings his personality with it.”
The response since the photoshoot has been incredibly positive; whether it’s from local media stations, on social media, or in his day to day life, people are inspired by his story. “My friends on the swim team and a couple of girls, even my coach knows, say I’m a famous model now.” says Ethan.
“You should see, anything I post relating to surf style’s model shoot, how everybody is so proud of him, [both] our friends and the special needs community.” Holt said, “He’s a big influence and example for all the little guys that also have Down Syndrome, and they see what he can do and [are] very proud of that.”
Ethan says he’s now “ready to be a model,” and from the looks of these pictures, we couldn’t agree more!