Since he first got on TikTok last March, Derek Baker has garnered an impressive 2 million followers under the account @bakerbanter. As one of a handful of influencers with Down syndrome, Derek gives a unique window into what it is like living with the intellectual disorder, and has been featured on local radio stations and the Today Show. Whether he’s dancing, working out, or simply enjoying life, Derek’s joie de vivre is effervescent.
Valerie, Derek’s mom, is very supportive and films many of the videos on his TikTok. Though they have a lot of fun, being the parent of an adult child with Down syndrome is not without its difficulties – particularly when it comes to finding meaningful employment. Speaking to TODAY, she remarked:
“It’s pretty overwhelming when you have an adult child with a disability and they get out of the school system. The key is having employers who have the patience and the understanding and the desire to help adults with disabilities and help them find meaningful employment.”
So when Derek interviewed with Pioneer Bakery and Café and they offered to hire him on the spot, he and his mom were ecstatic. Valerie shared the heartwarming moment in a video on TikTok:
@bakerbanterWe’re so proud of our guy! Congrats D-man!!! #jobinterview #wholesome #fyp♬ original sound – bakerbanter
Located in Kirkwood, Missouri, Pioneer Bakery and Cafe is dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities find purpose and build self-esteem through work in their unique training program. According to TODAY:
“Through Pioneer, Derek, who is one of 12 trainees in the inaugural course, has learned everything from using a cash register and decorating cookies to coping strategies for handling stress. At the end of each work day, Derek said it’s all about sharing a positive attitude with customers.”
Scott Rinaberger, one of the shop owners, says it’s rewarding to make a positive impact on the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. He told TODAY:
“The program, it’s just beautiful seeing it in action. And when the trainees are here, the whole space just gets energetic and electrifying. Watching them come in, get their aprons on and get ready, it’s just incredible. And I’m humbled by seeing and watching the whole program work.”
Thanks for all you are doing to help those with Down syndrome live fulfilling lives, Pioneer Bakery and Café! Keep up the good work.