Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence’s Longtime Friend with Down Syndrome

In today’s New York Daily News, there’s a profile of the Best Actress Oscar winner for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Jennifer Lawrence, focusing on her life, family and friends growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.

The piece notes that the Lawrence clan – who one neighbor describes as “a wonderful Christian family” – were her guests for the Academy Awards. Her parents, Karen and Gary, and her big brothers, Ben and Blaine, took turns sitting in the one seat available next to her during the ceremony.

Also of interest is that Jennifer has a longtime friendship with a boy with Down syndrome named Andy Strunk, who she met at church when they were young.


Jennifer always had star power and put it to good use, said nurse practitioner Pollyanna Strunk.

Jennifer and Strunk’s son, Andy, who has Down syndrome, met at church and then became close friends in Kammerer Middle School.

“She always had a soft heart for him. She always looked out for him. Middle school is a tough place to be, especially for a kid with special needs,” Pollyanna Strunk said.

In seventh grade, Lawrence was voted as “Most Talkative” — and she used her chatty knack to help Andy campaign the following semester to become “Mr. Kammerer.”

“It’s like king for the day,” Pollyanna Strunk said.

“She nominated him, and he won. She would talk to her friends and tell them to vote for him. She is very charismatic. It’s just her natural person coming out.”
Jennifer started sending Andy Strunk signed pictures from photo shoots when she was modeling, and then movie posters.

Pictures and posters of her festoon Andy Strunk’s bedroom.

A “Winter’s Bone” poster is inscribed, “To Andy — Don’t forget about me!”

The pair last hung out Christmas Day. Jennifer invited him to her parent’s home for a holiday hug.

“She has a good spirit,” Andy Strunk told the Daily News. “I just like to hang out with her.”

Pollyanna Strunk said her son received an autographed “Silver Linings Playbook” poster Saturday before the Oscars.

“She arranged for her aunt to hand deliver it to him,” she said. “This is her. She hasn’t forgotten who she is. This is her roots.”

Read more:

UPDATE: Watch a video of Andy Strunk discussing his friendship with Jennifer.

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.

  • Bob Schubring

    It was good of the NY Daily News to publish this piece, days after running some photos from a snoopy paparazzo depicting Lawrence on a hotel balcony in Hawaii, sharing a bottle of red wine, a back rub, a hug, and what has been termed a marijuana cigarette. Cannabis is one of the most-misunderstood drugs in existence. At one time, Kentucky led the nation in cannabis cultivation, used medicinally to treat menstrual cramps and colic. With a stroke of the pen, politicians banned the entire industry, shifting vast tracts of farmland from raising the medicinal seeds and the fiber used in burlap and twine, to raising the tobacco that sent so many to an early grave from smoking-related cancer.

    Like most pride-driven acts of violence, the choice to prohibit a helpful drug and promote a harmful one, led to decades of deceptions and denials, all calculated to preserve the appearance that a bad decision, imposed on others by force, was in some way, good. A promising lead toward cancer treatment, was suppressed for 4 decades, because the anti-cancer substance, cannabidiol, was first discovered in cannabis plants. Spanish researchers recently repeated an American experiment from the 1970′s, getting the same results…cannabidiol seems to slam the brakes on cancer growth. As such, it may become a staple of future cancer treatments.

    Why wasn’t the American research followed up immediately?

    Apparently, a bureaucracy feared the loss of its’ power.

    The US Controlled Substances Act orders the Surgeon General to classify drugs on four Schedules, each increasingly restrictive. A Schedule 4 drug is the least restricted. A Schedule 1 drug, which the statute defines as a drug that only causes harm and has no medicinal use, is the most-restricted.

    Cannabis is improperly listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

    Despite a growing body of evidence, not only for the presence of an anticancer agent in cannabis, but also, drugs that relieve pain, relieve nausea (including the extreme nausea that cancer chemotherapy induces), control epileptic seizures, control the panic experienced by autism sufferers, and reduce the severity of neuromuscular spasms in Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy, the US maintains the fiction that cannabis has no medicinal use and therefore must forever remain on Schedule 1.

    This has created a great difficulty for medical researchers with the misfortune to hold US citizenship. If a researcher seeks a permit from the US Drug Enforcement Agency, to obtain cannabis for research purposes, and the proposed research, involves any of these diseases for which cannabis may be helpful, the permit application is systematically denied.

    In producing a documentary film on the subject (see the website link for details), I was appalled to learn the lengths to which DEA would go, to obstruct academic research into cannabis as a medicine…and worse yet, to learn that researchers whose research sought to find something dangerous about cannabis, were swiftly given permission to use cannabis in their research. What was even more troubling, is that no one has ever died of an acute overdose of cannabis. Thus, it appeared that the ghoulish goal of finding some scientific evidence of actual harm caused by cannabis use, which finding would justify the previous efforts at prohibiting it’s cultivation in the US, outweighed any interest in simply studying this plant to see what uses it might have.

    In short, any research that might prove cannabis to have medical use, was to be obstructed, for that would remove cannabis from the highly-restrictive Schedule 1 and move it to Schedule 2 or 3, or perhaps 4. Gone would be the reason for which $1 trillion has been borrowed and spent, locking 1 percent of our population in prison, solely because they used cannabis, and leaving the nation deeply in debt. (The current $85 billion budget-sequester controversy would be unnecessary, if we simply freed from prison, everyone who was locked up solely for possession of cannabis, and rescheduled cannabis to a Schedule 2 drug. Doing this would immediately end the bureaucratic infighting between Washington bureaucrats and officials of the 10 states that have already voted to re-legalize cannabis as a medicine. Pride goeth before a fall, but also is very expensive!)

    When authorities conduct themselves in a lawless fashion, putting the preservation of falsehoods ahead of actual justice, they diminish respect for the law.

    The priest Valentine was martyred for marrying people, at a time that the Roman emperor had imposed a ban on weddings so as to keep his soldiers mean and focused on a planned war. Valentine broke a human law to obey God’s law.

    An honest look at those pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, sharing hugs, wine, and a puff on something with a friend, certainly look like the communion of love. It’s none of my business who Lawrence’s friend is, or why that friend needed cheering-up. I’m only aware of the controversy because someone snooped on the pair with a camera and a telephoto lens, and the NY Daily News. From what I see in those pictures, Jennifer Lawrence is following the higher law, of Christ’s command to us, that we love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, in doing whatever it takes to show a friend love and joy.

    Thankfully, the New York Daily News is not Caligula. It only took them three days to change their minds about Lawrence. I hope they will now be encouraged to join with Mayor Bloomberg and other voices of reason, in demanding an end to cannabis prohibition.

  • Pingback: stories that make me laugh & cry | inanities()

  • Pingback: UPDATE: Jennifer Lawrence’s Friend with Down Syndrome Gets His Own Moment in the Spotlight()