A company has become the first to use children with disabilities in a baby wipes TV commercial.
Pura, which has just launched its eco-friendly baby wipes, features a number of babies with disabilities or special needs in its new ‘It’s time for a change’ campaign – including little Lenny Rooney, two, from Liverpool, and Willow Welbourn, almost two, from Lincoln.
The tiny toddlers, who both have Down’s syndrome, were picked to star in the campaign for plastic-free baby wipes and their pictures will also appear on billboards and social media.
Lenny and Willow both signed to Zebedee Management, an agency which represents people with disabilities, when they were a few months old and this was their first major modelling job.
The beautiful babies were chosen from dozens of children and spent a day in London being filmed and photographed.
Laura Johnson, director of Zebedee Management, said when she started the agency with Zoe Proctor three years ago, one of her aspirations was to see a baby with a disability advertising wipes or nappies and she was thrilled her dream had come true.
She said: ‘Zebedee are over the moon that Willow and Lenny feature in the new Pura Campaign. Both babies and their families are all so wonderful, and we are delighted for them.
‘When Zebedee first launched, we were often asked what our aspirations were, and what bookings we would like to see for our models.
As a new mum, I dreamed of seeing a baby with a disability featured on baby wipe or nappy advertising. At the time, this seemed impossible. But now our dreams have been realised.
‘For a new mum, who has recently had a baby who has a disability, I feel that this sort of inclusive advertising will mean the world to them. It proves that their babies are accepted in the wider world and disability is not to be feared.’
Lenny, was born with two holes in his heart and only one valve and had to have open heart surgery when he was six months old.
Since then the cheerful little boy, who has an older sister Izzy, six, and younger sister, Nell, 16 weeks, has been hitting all his milestones and started walking during lockdown.
Lenny, who appears twice in the TV commercial, attended the filming with mum Vikki Rooney, who said it was ‘incredible’ that he was included in the advert.
‘I had no idea Lenny had Down’s syndrome until he was born and at first it was a shock, particularly because of his heart problems too.’ explained Vikki, 31, who is a midwife.
‘But we soon adjusted and Lenny wouldn’t be Lenny without his extra chromosome. He’s very determined and came home from his heart surgery after just four days, instead of weeks. I don’t think anything is going to stand in his way.
‘It’s incredible he is in the Pura advert because everyone wants their child to be included and not singled out because they look different.
‘My main aim with Lenny modelling is to help change people’s perceptions of Down’s syndrome and show he is just like everyone else and it’s not something to be scared of. I think society is gradually changing.’
Pretty Willow, who is almost two, appears in Pura’s social media campaign and is also set to feature on billboards.
Mum Hannah Welbourn, 30, from Lincoln, didn’t know Willow had Down’s syndrome until she was born.
She said: ‘All tests during my pregnancy had come back low chance but when she was born she had the markers for Down’s syndrome and after staying in hospital for tests it was confirmed.
‘At first we were shocked and scared about what her future would hold, but we very quickly got over our fears and got on with life.
‘Willow is wonderful, she is so good and relaxed and has the best personality. As a young baby she was in and out of hospital around 10 times with respiratory conditions but is doing really well now.
‘We’ve made lots of good friends and found a huge amount of support in the Down’s syndrome community and we signed her to Zebedee when she was a few months old as we loved what they stood for.’
She said it was fantastic that Willow had been chosen to be part of the Pura campaign.
‘I think it’s important to show that all babies are beautiful in their own way,’ she added.
Pura co-founder Guy Fennell, said they had a ‘strong commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.’
He said: ‘Pura believes that we all have an equal role in helping save our planet and we have a strong commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.
‘It was therefore really important to us that our campaign was an authentic reflection of all families, including children with disabilities or special needs.
‘Lenny and Willow were an absolute joy to work with, we had so much fun casting and filming our ‘spokesbabies’.
‘The campaign has obviously resonated with audiences as we have had more than 3.5 million views of the film already!
‘Pura is committed to making real change, and we are proud to play our part in helping disability diversity to become the norm in advertising.’