I’m glad I went to the window yesterday to see what it was that Tootsie, our dog, was paying attention to – first barking and then wiggling and wagging her tail to beat the drum!
Our neighbor was being picked up for a day’s outing by her friend and her friend’s daughter. The daughter was standing outside the car waving, smiling and clapping her hands in joy at Tootsie who was also beside herself with excitement.
This young woman has Down Syndrome. I’ve met her briefly several times and have heard many charming and loving stories about her from my neighbor.
Last week, while catching up on my mail and e-mails at work, I noticed that Monday, March 23rd is World Down Syndrome Day. This annual observance fosters awareness and understanding of Down Syndrome while promoting support and recognition of the dignity, rights and well-being of those individuals with Down Syndrome.
I had made a mental note to remember this as I read this announcement in my mail. When I saw Beth standing ouside my window, engaging with Tootsie – BINGO! She was my reminder and I knew exactly how I could acknowledge this day by sharing it with all of you.
When I was growing up, there was a family who had a daughter with Down Syndrome, the same age as me. She didn’t live at home but in an institution. Her parents picked her up one Sunday afternoon a month and I would sometimes see her when they would take her out for ice cream. I saw her throughout the years because I would often be at the ice cream store that was owned by my dad.
Unfortunately, people were uneducated about Down Syndrome in that generation and therefore didn’t speak openly about it. As a child, I was not given any real information about this young girl. In fact, the “polite” thing was to keep the whole subject very “hush, hush”.
I have thought of her over the years, however, wondering, realizing and sorry for the huge loss this young girl and her family suffered by this misinformed treatment.
World Down Syndrome Day takes place on 21 March every year. This date is significant as it represents the 3 copies of chromosome 21 which is unique to people with Down Syndrome.
In the La Crosse area, there is an organization called Children of the Heart. It is a group of family and friends of people with Down Syndrome. As it says on their website, www.dscoth.org these families are working together to make a difference for tomorrow. They offer activities and events as well as information and sharing.
We are fortunate to have such a passionate, caring, knowledgeable and supportive group locally. Every Fall they hold the Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk (formerly the Buddy Walk), a mile-long -walk at Riverside Park. It is a fun event to do with your family as well as a perfect way to champion and cherish every child in the world.
I encourage all to reach out, include and celebrate these families and most especially the children and adults with Down Syndrome.
I’m thrilled to say the subject is “hush hush” no more!