World Down syndrome Day
with Nao Hatamochi-Pinard, Kind Human Club member
March 21st is World Down syndrome (WDS) day; A day that spreads awareness of Down syndrome, the most common genetic condition which occurs when a person is born with an extra copy (i.e. a 3rd copy) of the 21st chromosome.
Have you ever imagined what your children’s futures might look like? What schools they might attend? What career path they might choose? You want them to conquer the world, the possibilities seem endless, and you’re full of hope. Now imagine if you’re told by health professionals that your child will struggle academically, that they’ll probably never advance on to post secondary education, and that they’re unlikely to find employment.
You might think it’s harsh (and it is), but it’s an unfortunate conversation that many parents are subjected to when they have a child with Down syndrome.
The reality is that yes, people with Down syndrome have a global developmental delay that effect all areas, including their cognition but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable or that they don’t have potential. Nowadays, you can find people with Down syndrome succeeding in so many professional fields. There are artists, dancers, actors, athletes, musicians, designers, photographers, and small business owners to name just a few.
It gives me great pleasure and hope to see these trailblazers paving the way for people like my daughter, giving her people to look up to, and goals to strive for. It makes me emotional, just thinking about the hard work and effort that must have gone into not only honing their talent, but breaking down barriers, and showing their abilities to a world that is so often focused on a preconceived idea of “perfection”. I don’t know what my daughter Emalee will want to pursue after high school. But I want her to know that there are options available to her. After all, isn’t that what all parents want for their kids? For them to be happy, healthy, independent, and striving to reach their highest potential?
That’s why I was so excited when I heard about an organization called Ruby’s Rainbow. Ruby’s Rainbow is a nonprofit organization in the US that was started by a fellow mom whose second daughter was born with Down Syndrome. She wanted a life for Ruby that wasn’t predetermined by society’s outdated notion of what people with disabilities could or could not do. She wanted Ruby to have the same opportunities that her older sister would have, including college. So the family started Ruby’s Rainbow to support adult students with Down syndrome in achieving their dreams of higher education while raising awareness of their amazing capabilities. Their primary objective is to grant college scholarships for students with Down syndrome attending post-secondary programs in the US, but they also do outreach work to spread knowledge about Down syndrome, as well as liaise with various post-secondary institutions to create more inclusive programs.
At this time, the program is limited to the US and American students, but I’m currently working with the organization with the hopes that we can expand it into Canada in the near future! In the meantime, we join a large community of fellow Down syndrome families every year to raise scholarship funds. Especially at this time of year, leading up to World Down Syndrome day (March 21st) where we do our biggest push for fundraising with the goal of surpassing the previous year’s total amount raised. The camaraderie of the community is incredible, and the excitement and joy of the scholarship recipients is more than words can describe.
mini mioche and the Kind Human Club has always been a wonderful support to us and the advocacy work that we do, but they’re going one step further and amplifying our fundraiser! We are truly blessed to have people like mini mioche Founder Alyssa Kerbel and her mm team who stand by their motto of “Raising Kind Humans” and giving back to the community.
Here’s how you can help too!
1. Go to https://321pledge.org/share/nao-hatamochi and donate! Any amount you can give goes toward helping someone with Down syndrome achieve their dreams of higher education.
2. Pledge to be kind to people of ALL ABILITIES!
3. Spread the word and ask friends + family to do the same!
And just like that, you’ve helped a person with Down syndrome pursue their college dreams, spread kindness, as well as raise more awareness about Down syndrome!
Finally, let me add a disclaimer to everything that I’ve said here today. I love seeing people with Down syndrome (or people with any disability) succeed in society; not because their ability or achievements validate their worth, but because their tenacity, effort, and hard work is something that should be recognized and celebrated. Going to university or college isn’t for everyone, and I’m not sure what path Emalee will pursue. But whatever she chooses, I’ll be there to cheer her on because people’s worth should never be defined by their accolades, their abilities, or their physical appearance.