John Franklin Stephens
Frank Stephens, as he is known to his friends, is a member of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Virginia, and a long-time Global Messenger advocating on behalf of Special Olympics. He was awarded the Quincy Jones Excellence in Advocacy Award by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation in 2016 and is an active advocate for research.
Frank’s business card describes him as an “Actor, Author, Advocate.” He truly is all of these things. He is also one of God’s chosen few who are about two percent greater than the rest of us in every cell of their bodies – having 47 instead of a mere 46 chromosomes. This, of course gives Frank membership in the exclusive club known as Down syndrome.
As an actor, Frank is a member of a wonderful local theater group known as ArtStream where he has appeared in original plays for over a decade. Frank has also had a feature role in a film called Touched by Grace, and recently guest starred in the Emmy-winning television show Born This Way.
As an author, Frank has published articles in periodicals ranging from The New York Times to the London Daily Mail. He has contributed to a book of stories of outstanding young advocates called Stand Up, which is a best-seller on Amazon. He is also a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post online.
As an advocate, he has spoken all over North America and Europe promoting the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Tim Shriver describes him as “the world’s leading spokesperson for ending the derogatory use of the word ‘retard.’”
Due to the increasing promotion of pre-natal screening to identify and terminate pregnancies with Down syndrome, Frank spends an increasing amount of his time informing audiences, especially medical professionals and policy makers, of the incredible lives that are possible now for people with Down syndrome. In October 2016, Frank was asked by the Down Syndrome Research Foundation of the United Kingdom to assist in their lobbying of Parliament. In January 2017, Frank was a Guest Lecturer on this topic at the Duke University School of Nursing.
Frank speaks often of how lucky he feels to live in a generation where all these things are possible for a man with Down syndrome.