With their infectious smiles and inherent cuteness, it is no wonder why Nampa boys Charlie and Milo McConnel have been inspiring so many people and became internet stars.
What makes these three-year-olds even more special is that they are actually fraternal twins, providing inspiration to their followers around the world and helping raise awareness about Down syndrome.
With a following of more than 89,400 on Instagram and over 137,637 on Facebook, the inspiring twins’ antics give only nothing but good vibes to those who see their pictures and watch their videos.
But more than that, their mother, Julie McConnel, says that she has a bigger purpose for creating these accounts.
The Facebook page was originally made right before the twins were born, as a way for the new mom to provide updates about the twins to family and friends.
However, when the boys grew older, she found that she could use this platform for a much greater cause — inspiring families who have a loved-one who has Down syndrome.
Julie told TODAY: “I just wanted it to be more of a way to share, ‘This is our life; and this is what it’s really like to grow up and have twins in your home with Down syndrome. Because that’s what I wanted to know when I got the diagnosis — what is this life really, really, really like? I don’t just want to see rainbows and butterflies and miracles every day.”
Julie said: “It was shocking and it was terrifying, and it took a while for us to come to grips with that diagnosis. I reached out, what I did is reach out on social media.”
She blended well with the members of her local Down syndrome association in her Boise, Idaho, community, but she relied on encouragement from people she met online. In particular, she connected with a family in Scotland who, like them, had fraternal twins with Down syndrome.
When Julie learned that about 1 in 14 million have fraternal twins with Down syndrome, it strengthened her belief that Charlie and Milo are special gifts to their family. To the couple, it really is “remarkable” and a “double lottery win” in their minds.
Now, Julie hopes that the twins’ social media pages will be inspiring and provide reassurance to others who are in a similar situation.
The boys – nicknamed Chuckles and Meatloaf – are twins, but they are unique from each other. Charlie was born a pound bigger at birth and is the more physical of the two. The first to walk and jump, this boy loves playing sumo wrestling with his dad and playing with any kind of ball.
Milo spent three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit after undergoing surgery to repair a kink in his small intestines. It took him a longer time to sit, smile and walk, and he initially had trouble feeding as well.
But now, he’s kept up with Charlie, and even surpassed him when it comes to sign language, which the kid loves to use.
“We always say that Charlie’s our athlete and Milo’s our scholar. Those are their two distinct personalities” their proud mother said.
Julie and Dan are 47 and 48 years old, respectively, and they have four older children before they were blessed with their dual bundle of joy.
Despite her initial doubts upon learning of the twins’ Down syndrome diagnosis, a shift in mindset came when Julie became more educated about the condition. The tremendous help she got from social media also played a role in this change.
Julie wants to use their online presence as a platform to develop a community. Evidently, she has achieved success in that, as their feed is full of stories from different families who can relate to their highs and lows, or those who are seeking reassurance.
Finally, she says this about raising children with Down Syndrome:
“It’s a real common story. We all wish we could go back and tell ourselves when we were pregnant that it’s going to be okay and not to worry and waste time being so sad and afraid.
It’s a very normal process to go, but when you come out the other side, you realize, I wouldn’t imagine my life any other way. I’m so thankful for my life the way that it is, with all the joy to be found, and the stress, just like with any child.”
Thank you, Julie and Dan, for inspiring us with your story and sharing it to the world and for reassuring other parents of children with Down syndrome that as much as it is challenging, loving and raising children like them is so worth it.