When Melbourne mum Jacqui Di Bendetto gave birth to her son Domenic, she knew something wasn’t right.
Blind from birth, Domenic’s vision corrected itself at six months but doctors warned of even more challenges ahead for the tiny tot.
However, the little boy soon proved them wrong, sitting up at eight months and walking for the first time on his second birthday.
Now his mum is determined to give back by supporting organisations that make a real difference to the lives of other children with disabilities. And she’s doing it via a fun kidswear label created with fellow mum and best friend Ana Garcia.
Half of all profits from the Jacana Kids range go to Early Childhood Development program in Australia. Jacqui and Ana have also teamed with Yooralla, which is dedicated to campaigning for people with disabilities to be treated as equal citizens.
Jacqui says watching Domenic, who also has a twin sister and an older brother, defy doctor’s expectations to become an energetic three-year-old who loves karate and swimming inspired her business venture.
“I am so thankful for all the support given to us by Early Childhood Education Services. We gained the practical tools and emotional support to help Dominic be able to live a full and independent life,” Jacqui says.
While Domenic’s vision is 100 per cent for his age now, he still had to overcome challenges from two separate conditions.
The first was Cerebellar Vermain Hypoplasia, a rare brain disorder where a part of the brain (cerebellum) fails to develop fully, impeding balance and movement.
The second was Ocular Motor Apraxia (OMA), a neurological condition affecting controlled eye movement, often accompanied by speech difficulties, coordination issues, and developmental delays – something he will have to cope with throughout his life.
“He is amazing, he is doing really well, considering doctors didn’t think he’d be able to sit up until he was like 18 months – he sat up at about eight months, started walking on his second birthday and now he is scooting, jumping and just started karate last week,” Jacqui tells Babyology.
Without having inherited her mum’s sewing ability, Jacqui says the idea to start a clothing line came from her love of fashion.
“I like to dress my kids cool and funky, rather than the normal tracksuit pants and stuff you find here in Australia,” she says.
“I’d go nuts if I was overseas buying the stuff you just can’t get here. Fashion has always been a big thing for me, my kids always get compliments for the way they’ve been dressed.”
With a background in writing, Ana has found another way to harness her creative side with the new line.
“I love getting the children to also use their imagination in their drawings,” Ana tells Babyology.
“We wanted our clothing to represent the inherent joy of childhood and a child’s own artwork encapsulates that perfectly.”
But behind the entire project, Ana is also driven by the desire to give back.
“When Jacqui was pregnant I felt what she felt, I’m a mum and she is my friend,” Ana says.
“When you have kids, you know something can go wrong. Then you see your friend and you want to help.
“It’s amazing to see how well Domenic is doing because he got the help he needed early.”
All Jacana Kids clothing are printed in Melbourne.