We have been busy. We have been busy with parent-teacher conferences and dinners, preparing for the Kansas City Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk and Rachel’s Razorback’s team, CYT Showcase, Guys & Dolls practice, studying science and social studies vocabulary, just living life and doing some Down syndrome awareness. Today I wanted to touch on a few of our recent opportunities to promote the abilities of people with Down syndrome and to imagine the possAbilities!
Friday Rachel and I flew to Roswell, New Mexico. We were guests of the aliens..
Just kidding we were guests of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico. They have a family reunion dinner on Friday night before their Buddy Walk on Saturday morning. Let’s just say, they are much braver than I am. I would surely have been admitted for psychiatric care if I had tried to coordinate a dinner the night before the Buddy Walk. Rachel was invited to speak and share her “I Love My Life” presentation. We tweaked it a little and she only went rogue two or three times. She did an outstanding job.
I also shared a short little motivational gig based on my previous blog, “What I Would Say 14 Years Later.” Then, we watched “Just Like You – Down Syndrome.” Saturday morning was the Buddy Walk. Rachel had already made many new friends and so had I!
The walk reminded me of earlier days in Memphis primarily because of the beautiful garden setting. It was at a park and zoo. Really, it was just a sweet day. I had the opportunity to speak to the local news reporter and the Buddy Walk coverage was featured on the front page of the Roswell newspaper on Sunday. I was most impressed with the some of the cheerleaders from one of the Roswell High Schools. They invited Rachel to join them. This put her on cloud nine of course. One in particular became Rachel’s “best friend” Darci.
Always encourages me to see teenaged girls who reach out and set such a beautiful example. The beautiful examples were beyond there. The people seemed so genuine and everywhere we went there were Buddy Walk signs connected to businesses and promoting Down syndrome awareness. Big cities have nothing on this community.
Monday we had a speaking gig at a nearby school. Our schools were out on Monday as part of the parent teacher fall conference/teacher training break. Rachel and Savanna were featured speakers for the kick off of the Eudora High School Diversity Awareness week activities. Rachel was most excited to be going to Eudora because her much loved dog Dora’s given name is “Eudora.” Dora came from a rescue and had the name of Eudora. We shortened for Rachel so sorry friends, Dora was not named after Dora the Explorer. Rachel did her “I Love My Life” presentation. It was well-received. Then, we showed “Just Like You -Down Syndrome” to 450 students plus teachers and staff. The students had submitted questions for our Q&A time. Due to our travel schedule, we didn’t get the questions until Sunday night. They were good questions but some were needed some thought. I typed them all up and made flash cards (home made because I didn’t have index cards that were large enough). Rachel told us her answers and we practiced. We picked up Savanna on Monday and practiced on our way there. Preparation is key for any good speaker I say. All those years prepping for 4-H speeches and prepping 4-H kids for presentations has certainly come in handy! I may blog about the questions and answers later in the week. It is always a bit funny to take Rachel and Savanna on these gigs because they are personality opposites. Savanna is much more quiet, deliberate and short with her answers. And Rachel is my child so enough said.
I was impressed with Eudora High School for many reasons. One is they seem to have such a caring staff. The two students who did the welcome and introductions were not the leaders of the student council. They were students with disabilities and used communication devices. I was impressed with the young man who is a musical theatre lover himself who came to Rachel afterward and told her he thought her speech was fine and that he wished her luck in her pursuits. Talk about making a 14-year old little lady’s heart happy! He wanted to know her favorite role in a show and she said “The Mirror” in “Beauty and the Beast.” Then, he asked her what her favorite song was to sing. She said that was hard but “I Will Dance with Cinderella,” “Beautiful Things” and “Oh Happy Day.” She even started to do the motions for “Oh Happy Day” and that made my heart happy. They invited us to stay for lunch. The girls sat with students and seemed to have a lovely time as some more of those great teen girls stopped by to tell them what a great job they did. I had the opportunity to sit with a group of girls (primarily) and they had some though provoking questions for me. Maybe I’ll blog about those later this week too. Another beautiful experience.
Rachel did a great job promoting positive public awareness of Down syndrome these past three days. In my opinion, the most positive part wasn’t in her organized presentation. It was in demonstrating what “Just Like You – Down Syndrome” is trying to say, people with Down syndrome are just like you. She was just like you in that she was a bit tired from traveling but still kept that smile. She was just like you in that she stumbled on the “Pledge of Allegiance” at the walk while on stage but she kept going. She was just like other teenagers in that she wanted to hang out with the cheerleaders, gave a little sass here and there, and she tried to be a friend to some of the kids who were a little younger than she is. When you travel and do these presentations, everyone is watching and you have to be at your best. It can be tiring and overwhelming, but she was a trooper and demonstrated some of those very same character traits that I see in some of her teenaged role models. That’s why I think she did a great job promoting Down syndrome awareness this weekend. She wasn’t perfect. She was just a young lady with Down syndrome trying to show others that she is “just like you.” I think she is.
NOTE: We had the opportunity to visit Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell. They had one of the first post-secondary programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities. We thought while there we would make it our 1st College visit. More to come on that topic too!