Keepsake Tales: Making a Difference During Down Syndrome Awareness Month

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Hey everyone, it’s been a while! I took a short break from the blog to finish out the first eight weeks of my fall semester at East Carolina University. It is great to be back and diving into more awesome businesses! So, let’s get into it…

I’m really excited to introduce you all to our next feature business, Keepsake Tales. While Keepsake Tales is not owned or operated by an individual with IDD, they are spearheading an initiative that will benefit organizations such as Gigi’s Playhouse, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the National Down Syndrome Congress for the month of October – also known as Down Syndrome Awareness Month! I had the opportunity to chat with one of the founders of Keepsake Tales, Mike Vaggalis, and learn more about their mission and the valuable partnerships they are forming that will benefit the IDD community this month.

**In fact, Keepsake Tales has activated a discount code for 321 Coffee supporters to purchase their products at 10% off + a 10% donation back to 321 Coffee for every book that is purchased using the code!

TO USE THIS DEAL, ENTER CODE “321TEN” AT CHECKOUT ON THE KEEPSAKE TALES WEBSITE. CLICK HERE TO REDIRECT TO THEIR WEBSITE**

Founded in September of 2019 by Erin Burchik and Mike Vaggalis, Keepsake Tales believes that every child is one of a kind and has intrinsic value. Therefore, they focus on building the world’s most personalized children’s books so that every child will understand that they matter. However, as the company’s website reflects, there are millions of children that do not see themselves reflected in the stories that they read.

“We’re building stories that every child can see themselves as the champion in,” Mike explained. “The way that we do that is by starting an illustration process using a photo of the child [that the book is being made for]. We turn that picture into an illustration that matches the illustration style of the story. So, any child has the opportunity to see themselves as the protagonist of the story.”

Mike went on to explain that he has always loved reading and stories. When he and Erin realized that a lot of children have never received the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the stories that they read, they began to look into inclusion in children’s literature and recognize that many children were experiencing a lack of representation in the books they read – i.e. children who have special needs, children who are sick, children in racial minorities, the list goes on.

“A catalyst [for starting our company] in my mind was an interview we had with a mom that said it would be powerful if we could put her daughter into a story because she had Down Syndrome, and that they don’t typically make books for kids like her,” Mike continued, “That was like a ‘scales falling from the eyes’ moment. You know, as a white guy, I always see myself reflected in the books that I read growing up, and at first, it was a foreign concept to think about growing up and not having the same opportunity. By utilizing a personalized method of getting books out there, we can create a tangible solution to that problem.”

Aside from their work to promote inclusion in children’s literature, Keepsake Tales is also partnering with several organizations such as Gigi’s Playhouse, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), and the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC). Recently, Keepsake Tales was able to sponsor a gala for the New York City chapter of Gigi’s Playhouse – and with only two books, they were able to fundraise over $2,000 for Gigi’s. Mike also expressed that it was great to see that others found value in the work they were doing.

Keepsake Tales took these partnerships a step further, as Mike explained: “What we’re doing this month is helping these organizations make these books more accessible to their families by offering a discount code for 10% off the price of our books, and then we are donating 10% of our revenues back to those organizations. For us, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and that’s something that’s been at the heart of why we’ve been building these books. It was a natural place for us to plug into and fortunately, we found these great partnerships with Gigi’s, the NDSS, and the NDSC.

To wrap up my interview with Mike, I asked him if there was a particular highlight that he could recall of Keepsake Tales’ work with these partnerships. “The thing that I’m looking forward to the most is seeing the looks on the faces of the kids in these organizations [when they see themselves represented in these books]. We produced a book for a little girl with Down Syndrome, and her dad reached out to us and said that she never puts it down and that she brings it to school with her to show all of her friends. And for another girl, she hasn’t received her book yet, but her mom told us that she loved the photo-taking process and felt like she was in a Hollywood photoshoot. So it’s really cool seeing children that we are trying to make an impact with resonating so strongly with what we’re doing.”

As a reminder, Keepsake Tales has activated a discount code for 321 Coffee supporters to purchase their products at 10% off + a 10% donation back to 321 Coffee for every book that is purchased using the code!

TO USE THIS DEAL, ENTER CODE “321TEN” AT CHECKOUT ON THE KEEPSAKE TALES WEBSITE. CLICK HERE TO REDIRECT TO THEIR WEBSITE**