SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Earlier this month, Charlee Cochrane headed into New York City eager to go to ‘work.’ The 11-year-old South Plainfield resident spent the day getting pampered and being photographed as a model for Target and will appear in one of the retail giant’s upcoming print and digital weekly ads.

For Charlee, an incoming fourth grader at Riley Elementary School with Down syndrome, the modeling opportunity was ‘awesome sauce.’

“It was a very special day for her,” said Charlee’s mom Barbara Cochrane. “What little girl wouldn't love having her hair and makeup done, getting her picture taken and have all that attention on her.”

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Back early 2012, Charlee signed with the Manhattan-based modeling and talent agency FunnyFace Today, Inc. (http://www.fftmodels.com. That February, she was called in to be a model for a McGraw-Hill textbook and, in May 2013, modeled a pirate costume for a birthday party-themed article in Parents magazine.

Things were quiet for a while and then on April 7, the agency called. “They told us that Target was looking to build their database and asked for Charlee to come in so they could take some updated photos,” Cochrane said.

Charlee went in to be photographed and, on July 6, the agency sent an email requesting Charlee for an upcoming Target ad.

 “When she was in Parents magazine, that was big. But this, this is huge,” said Cochrane. “Who doesn't love Target?”

On July 11, Charlee and her cousin/godmother Stacey Diana-O’Keefe, 29 – a former child model herself – headed into the city for the photo shoot. Charlee spent the next hour and a half getting her hair and makeup done and her photos taken. She also got to wear a Shopkins outfit.

“I love to go to work in New York with my God-mommy,” Charlee said.

Over the years, Target has regularly featured special needs children in their print and digital advertisements. Back in 2012, a young boy named ‘Ryan’ was featured modeling clothing for Target’s shortly after appearing in a Nordstrom catalogue and, in 2014, a 2-year-old girl with Down syndrome was pictured in an ad for a children’s toy. In an October 2015 Halloween ad, Target featured a girl with leg braces and arm crutches dressed in an Elsa costume and, earlier this month, another girl with leg braces and arm crutches was pictured modeling backpacks. Most recently, a little girl with Down syndrome was featured in a television commercial for Target’s new and exclusive Cat & Jack clothing line for kids and baby.

“Target, along with so many other companies, are big advocates for kids with disabilities and it is great,” said Cochrane, who serves as co-chair of the South Plainfield School District’s Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC). “The more children with disabilities are included in things, the more people will begin to see that they are just that – children – and that their disabilities do not define them. Our kids are just like other kids.”

Charlee, the youngest of the William and Barbara Cochranes five children, attends general education classes, goes to religious instruction, and plays recreation sports. She loves having her hair and makeup done, going to ‘work’ and having her photo taken.

“When we look at Charlee, we don't see her disability; all we see is a beautiful child who deserves to be a model and in pictures,” Cochrane said, adding, ‘Slowly but surely the world is starting to come around, too.”

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