CHICAGO — When Nate Simon was born, he was sick. Doctors told his mother, Holly, he wasn’t expected to be able to walk or talk.
“I definitely want the world to see that our kids can do more and be more than what others have expected,” said Holly Simon.
For the last 19 years, Nate, who has Down syndrome, has been proving everyone wrong.
“You've done millions of things in your little life,” Holly said to Nate.
The walls of his bedroom are lined with more than a hundred Special Olympics gold medals.
“I play basketball. I'm very good at golf and bowling,” said Nate.
A fashion-lover, the teen and his model sister have walked the runway for L.A. Fashion Week. He’s rubbed elbows with celebrities like Lady Gaga, and he’s also got a huge following on TikTok.
And it was on the social media platform Nate first connected with a Colorado-based comedian and influencer known online as Officer Daniels.
“I came across their account and instantly fell in love and followed and reached out and said, ‘Hey, I love what you guys are doing. I have a sister who has Down syndrome as well, and I'd love to just connect,'” said Daniels.
That connection turned into a friendship, with surprise visits and a deepening bond.
“When they met, there was magic between the two of them,” said Holly.
So, when Holly Simon turned to Officer Daniels to find a way to raise awareness and give back, they found inspiration in Nate’s signature style.
“It hit me one day that Nate loves Hawaiian shirts, and there wasn't a single reason why he couldn't own his own Hawaiian shirt company,” said Daniels.
That's when 21 Pineapples was born. It was named for the extra 21st chromosome people with Down syndrome have and Nate’s favorite fruit.
“I love pineapples. I love to eat them. And I like the crown of the pineapple,” said Nate.
“Because why? It's like a crown,” said Holly. “And don't you think all kids with different abilities should wear crowns?”
“Yes, I do,” responded Nate.
The company sells bright, bold Hawaiian shirts and accessories with a portion of the proceeds going to support Down syndrome organizations around the world.
“I had somebody tell me that this condition wasn't to be celebrated, and this is exactly why we're doing it— to prove those kinds of people wrong,” said Daniels.
“Kids like Nate don't usually have opportunities to own their own companies or be CEOs,” said Holly. “And now, he's the boss.
Within the first two days of going live, they sold out, crashing their website.
Officer Daniels says it’s just one way he’s been able to celebrate his elder sister, Heather, and his friendship with Nate.
“They have all the love in the world, and a lot of times they don't get it back. So, that's kept me very humble,” he said.
For the Simons and the entire team at 21 Pineapples, where some see a disability, they see endless abilities.
“When everybody is afraid or sad, we need something to hold on to that's positive,” said Holly. “And there's nothing more positive than a young man following a dream.”