Rowan Alum Wins First Place in BEA Awards, Shines Light on Rare Disorder

Rowan alum Gabby Connelly wins Broadcasting Education Award for her short-film, "Mutation on Chromosome 5." The documentary explores what it's like for families with children who have the rare genetic disorder, Cornelia de Lange syndrome. - Photo / Gabby Connelly

Author’s Note: Gabby Connelly was inadvertently left out of the Rowan Radio Wins Three Broadcasting Awards article. To correct the oversight, I wanted to solely feature her for her work. 

Rowan University’s Radio, Television and Film Department produces high-quality work on a yearly basis and receives national recognition for such progress. 

Gabby Connelly, a class of 2021 Rowan alum, received a first-place award in the Student Short Film Category for her documentary, “Mutation on Chromosome 5.”

“Mutation on Chromosome 5” is a documentary about Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS). Cornelia de Lange syndrome is a genetic disorder that a small percentage of people are born with, with the estimated number being 1 in 10,000 births. The documentary breaks down what the syndrome is, the CdLS Foundation, and what they’ve done for Connelly’s family.

The CdLS Foundation is a national organization. Connelly noted that the organization doesn’t get a lot of recognition that they deserve. The foundation focuses on providing financial and overall support to families who deal with Cornelia de Lange syndrome. Since it’s a rare disorder, not a lot of doctors know how to properly treat children that are suffering.

“The foundation, with all the donations that they receive, they go help this community of parents and children,” Connelly said.

The inspiration for the documentary for Connelly’s first-place short-film documentary stemmed from her home life. It blossomed into something she wants viewers to see.

“The inspiration behind it is just my brother; he has Cornelia de Lange syndrome,” said Connelly. “With a life expectancy of ranging to 40-50 years old, I just thought it was really important to shine light on that community.”

With a number of students vying for the prestigious award in that category, Connelly proudly walked away with the award, securing another win for Rowan’s RTF department from the Broadcast Education Awards. 

“I really didn’t understand at first how big of a deal it was,” said Connelly. “I never won an award like this before. I won stuff at the RTF Media Fest at Rowan as an undergrad, but it was a really big honor to win this, and to find out just how many people I was going against to win first place was just incredible.”

When Connelly was making the documentary, she was in contact with the president and numerous other top members of the CdLS Foundation. She also talked to other families affected by the disorder to get as many other authentic voices in the documentary as possible. 

“So many people have been affected by it. Making this documentary, I have been in contact with the president and a lot of the top members of the organization and countless families. It’s just so important to shine a light on them,” Connelly said. “I wanted to showcase what it was because it’s in the family of Down syndrome, but it’s definitely different and not a lot of people heard of it. I want this film to be viewed and for people to then go and browse the website and donate to the cause because there are thousands of families out there who are not getting the support that they need that the foundation offers them because it’s geared towards that specific syndrome.”

Rowan students, faculty and alumni have won countless BEA awards over the years, for their work ranging from radio personalities to newscasts and short films. Connelly is one of the many students who received national recognition for work that shines a light on important topics happening in the world.

More information about the CdLS Foundation can be found on the organization’s website.

Connelly’s documentary can be found on YouTube.

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