Man hopes to raise awareness for Down syndrome with movie

He’s raising funds to have “Made With Love” produced.

David Hughens jokes that, like the Blues Brothers, he was on a mission from God when he wrote his award-winning screenplay “Made with Love,” a story about the bond between an old man and his neighbor who has Down syndrome. Hughens, 56, hopes folks will help raise funds to have the movie produced, which will raise awareness, acceptance, and appreciation for individuals with Down syndrome.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Hughens wrote and directed an independent film at age 23, then followed other career paths, including education, where he served as the director of marketing for an independent school in Raleigh for 15 years. While in that role, Hughens also served as his father’s caretaker for five years. When his dad died in 2020, Hughens’ next step became clear.

“I felt like God was telling me to get back into filmmaking and make positive, uplifting films,” said Hughens. “I quit my job, sold my house, moved back to Atlanta, and began pursuing my passion again. God really moved in my life and has given me so much creative juice. I’ve written six screenplays in two years.”

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

“Made with Love” was among the six and was written in just two weeks. Hughens submitted it to film festivals around the world. “Made With Love” has won over 25 awards, including the “Best Script” award in France, Singapore, India and Italy.

The screenplay was inspired by Hughens’ friend, Jay Thrasher Carr, a 29-year-old Suwanee man who has Down syndrome. Jay is the adopted son of one of Hughens’ dearest friends, Dawn Carr.

Jay, a high school friend of Dawn’s daughter, Lucy, moved in with the family in 2013 and was formally adopted in 2020.

“Lucy was a high school senior when she came to talk to me about Jay one day,” said Dawn. “She said his mom was moving away, and that he could go live with his dad, but Jay wanted to live with us instead because he said we would love him more than anyone. Lucy said she was taking him to live with her in Tuscaloosa where she was heading to college. I said, ‘No, you’re not!’”

Dawn and her husband, who, coincidentally, is also named Jay, welcomed the younger Jay into their family, which includes four grown children, including Lucy, and a grandchild. Dawn said Jay is adored in their home and is known everywhere he goes for his joyful, lovable demeanor.

Since becoming part of the Carr family, Hughens has spent lots of time with Jay. Coloring is Jay’s favorite hobby and Hughens loves to join him. The two recently attended the Big Game Ball, sponsored by the National Down Syndrome Congress, together, where they goofed off, danced, and where Jay, as always, spoke to everyone.

“If you don’t know someone with Down syndrome, they may look, sound, or act a little different,” said Hughens. “Some people are scared of what they don’t know, but when you let yourself get into his world, it’s so amazing. He’s changed my life. He’s shown me so much about what individuals with Down syndrome are capable of. When Jay heard about my film background, he told me he wants to be a movie star and that I should write a movie about him. I completely agreed, so I did it.”

While the role of “Jay” in the movie isn’t about the real Jay’s life verbatim, Hughens used his personality as inspiration and pictures him acting in the role.

“He’s the star as far as I’m concerned,” said Hughens. “I wrote it with him in mind. Could someone else do it? Yes. But my friend Jay wants to be a movie star and I fully believe he’s capable of doing it.”

Jay, who dressed up as his mom, Dawn, for Halloween last year, complete with a wig and Chanel, is confident that he would be a good actor.

“I was made for the spotlight,” said Jay, with a smile that reaches his eyes. “My nanny always told me to shine my light.”

Dawn seconds the comment about Jay’s grandmother who died years ago.

“Jay says Nanny would be so happy and proud because she wanted everyone to know him.”

Jay is working hard, hoping his role in “Made with Love” will come to fruition. He’s been focusing on social cues and learning how to read. He turns 30 next September and hopes that, in addition to a trip to Turks and Caicos, he’ll be celebrating the movie premiere.

“It’d be my dream come true.”

If you would like to join the crowdfunding effort for “Made With Love,” visit www.madewithlovethemovie.com.