BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – Nearly 1 out of every 700 babies is born with Down syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the past 12 years, a local organization has been helping people with the chromosomal disorder.
Founded in 2007, the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley provides support, resources, education and opportunities to people with Down syndrome throughout the area.
This week’s Hometown Hero, Michele Jones, is the organization’s president. She says her personal experience inspired her to start the organization.
“When my daughter was born, who happened to have Down syndrome, we would go to Cleveland, Pittsburgh — there was nothing really local here for Down syndrome-specific resources. So another family, the Dennatio family, and my husband and I founded the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley,” Jones said.
The organization offers many activities for children, including swim lessons, family outings to sporting events and iCAN Bike, a week-long camp that teaches children with Down syndrome how to ride bikes.
Jones says it’s important to see the kids participating in the same activities as their peers.
“[To] really show the community… show [that] individuals with Down syndrome are really more alike than different. They really are capable of doing really anything that the rest of us can do, it just might take a little bit longer for them to do it. They really are the inspiration behind everything we do at the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley,” Jones said.
Nearly 300 families are members of the organization, which also hosts events that focus on support for parents, like coffee time and parents’ night out.
“It’s nice just to get together, usually about every three months, just parents get together and can share experiences, can share stories about education or share stories about medical needs. Just the importance of just knowing what someone else is going through and just being able to provide that shoulder to listen to,” Jones said.
The mission is to help people with Down syndrome reach their full potential.
Membership is free and open to anyone with Down syndrome, their families, educators or health care professionals. Just head over to the organization’s website to sign up.
The organization’s next big event, called the Buddy Walk, is on Sept. 22, a day to celebrate and bring awareness.