"You and Ryan are taking a different walk together," Paul Daugherty wrote to his daughter Jillian. "It's a new challenge, but it's no more daunting for you than anyone else. Given who you are, it might be less so."
Daugherty wrote the letter for TheMighty.com, a website dedicated to empowering people with disability and disease. Though the letter was penned after his daughter's big day, Daugherty said it's filled with messages he's already shared with his daughter. In part the letter reads:
- "Dear Jillian,
It is the afternoon of your wedding. June 27, 2015. In two hours, you will take the walk of a lifetime, a stroll made more memorable by what you've achieved to get to this day. I don't know what the odds are of a woman born with Down syndrome marrying the love of her life. I only know you've beaten them."
Read the full letter here.
He goes on to describe Jillian's preparations for the wedding with her mom and bridesmaid in the bridal suite. He says he achieved pure bliss on his daughter's big day.
He then reminisces about Jillian's childhood, saying he never worried about what she could achieve, despite the naysayers.
"Do you remember all the stuff they said you'd never do, Jills?" the letter reads. "You wouldn't ride a two-wheeler or play sports. You wouldn't go to college. You certainly wouldn't get married. Now ... look at you."
"It was magical," he told ABC of the ceremony. "We had 125 guests, and every single one of them had helped Jillian get to that day. It really does take a village, especially when you're talking about a child with a disability."
Daugherty told ABC he hopes the letter will help others see people with Down syndrome in a new light.
"Those who have taken the time to SEE Jillian, rather than simply LOOK at her, have benefited from the relationship, and rewarded with a lifetime friend," he said. "Do not look at my daughter, and define her by her appearance. See her, and allow her to define herself. "
As for Jillian and Ryan's relationship, Daugherty said it is truly pure.
"They live their love every day," he said. "It's all natural, unfiltered by agendas or guile."
Daugherty wrote about his journey parenting Jillian in his book, "Uncomplicated Life."
Images used with permission of Paul and Kerry Daugherty.