Local parents raising awareness about Down syndrome
If Tina Ness, Jenny Sullivan and other parents in the North Branch Area are successful, there will be quite a few people matching, and also clashing, come late March.
Ness, the mother of Braylee, a kindergartner with Down syndrome, and Sullivan, the mother of Molly, a fifth-grader with Down, are hoping to get as many people as they can around town participating in World Down Syndrome Day, which is March 21, and then a dance at one of the schools to support kids with Down syndrome that following weekend.
The proceeds from that dance would be donated to Fiona’s Hope Totes, a nonprofit organization formed to address the comfort needs of families of hospitalized children during prolonged or unexpected hospital stays.
On World Down Syndrome Day, Ness said she’d like to see as many people as possible wearing blue and yellow (colors in support of Down syndrome awareness) or mismatched socks. She’s also hoping to get as many area businesses involved as possible, in any way they’d like to participate.
The goal, she said, is to get residents asking people dressed differently that day why they’re clad in blue, yellow and wacky socks. The people participating can then tell them about World Down Syndrome Day and spark up conversations about Down syndrome.
Sullivan said children and adults with Down syndrome have become more and more accepted in society, but that wasn’t always the case.
“We want to make a big deal about it (Down syndrome awareness),” she said. “People with Down syndrome used to be kind of hidden away, and this is bringing it out.”
Sullivan said right now is a great time to start dialogue about Down syndrome, given that there are kids of various ages with it in the community.
“In each school, including preschool, all the way to the Brooker building, there’s somebody with Down syndrome,” she said.
Ness said closer to the March there will be fliers around town that say something like, “Color our town blue and yellow for Down Syndrome Awareness,” as an added reminder that World Down Syndrome Day is approaching.
In addition to the fliers and dance, organizers are planning to have a walk, followed by some fun activities. The exact location for that walk hasn’t been determined yet, but it would likely be either near or in one of the North Branch schools.
North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy told Ness she would “love to be a part of the planning and activities,” and she’d do a mayoral proclamation at the council’s first meeting in March in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day.
The ultimate goal of the awareness day for Down syndrome and the dance is inclusion for those with Down and educating people around them who might not know much about the condition.
Ness said all it takes is some talking, and people become more receptive; she’s seen it happen already. She commented that she came into Braylee’s kindergarten class at Sunrise River Elementary School and talked to the kids about her daughter and Down syndrome. She told them that Braylee gets sick much easier than most of her schoolmates, and being ill can affect her much more severely, so it’s very appreciated if the children practice proper hygiene.
“Mrs. (Jennifer) Heath, Braylee’s teacher, just emailed me that she’s never had a class that’s been so aware of making sure they wash their hands and cover their coughs,” she said. “That’s really great.”
Anyone who would like to help out with organizing for World Down Syndrome Day or the dance the following weekend in North Branch can email Tina Ness at [email protected]