CLEARWATER, Fla. —  A Clearwater woman is bringing serious sparkle into the lives of others through her own business and with the help of a nonprofit, all while living with Down syndrome.

  • Maxine Simeone makes headbands and barrettes for non-profit 'Help Us Gather'
  • Her mother was told Maxine would live life as a wallflower
  • To purchase headbands visit Poolside or go to

Running your own business can come with challenges.

“We got a lot of orders on ETSY right away, and to keep up with it, she had to have us help her,” said Robin Lally, founder of Clearwater-based Help Us Gather, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusion for people with disabilities.

Even if the problem is keeping up with demand, challenges don’t stand a chance against 23-year-old Maxine Simeone.

She’s a pro at beating the odds.

“When I first found out who Maxine was going to be, I had to deal with people telling me what she wasn’t going to be,” said Deborah Simeone, Maxine’s mother.

Deborah was told Maxine would live life as a wallflower and would never function like everyone else, and in a way, they were right.

Maxine has been like no one else - she's been a superstar.

“Like Beyonce, like Gaga,” said Maxine, who has Down syndrome. 

Maxine started making headbands and barrettes with Help Us Gather’ years ago.

“I make them so fabulous!” said Maxine.

“She is just like confident and girly and sparkly,” said Lally.

“A very vivacious, happy, energetic, and artistic young woman,” said Deborah.

All qualities necessary to run her fashion hair accessory business, Sparkles by Maxine.

So once she’s done working here magic at Help Us Gather, she makes the 15-minute drive over to locally-owned store Poolside to deliver her best-selling products to be sold to the public.

“My biggest belief is everybody deserves a chance, and everybody needs a little bit of Maxine sparkle in their life,” said Linda Sell, sales associate at Poolside.

Anyone interested in purchasing a headband can visit Poolside or go to

Anyone who would like to learn more about Help Us Gather can visit