Celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month

This October, Down Syndrome Awareness Month began in the heart of the biggest city in the United States. The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) aired a video of over two hundred pictures of people living with the chromosomal disorder on the jumbo screen in Times Square in New York City. Down Syndrome Awareness Month aims to educate the public about the condition and celebrate the unique contribution these individuals make to their families and communities.

Some of the statistics displayed in the video are eye-opening. In 1983, the life expectancy for individuals with the condition was 25 years. In 2012, it is 60. The video also states that 1 in 161 babies born in the U.S. has Down syndrome and that there are currently more than 400,000 people living with the disorder in the country today.

The video aired yesterday as the New York City Flagship Buddy Walk kicked off a month of activities. The Buddy Walk, one of the top fundraising events in the country, celebrates acceptance and inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome. There are over 250 walks taking place this year. Celebrity cook Paula Deen will lead the Buddy Walk around Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia on October 6.

Also celebrating this month are the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, whose Chiefs Community Caring Team is participating in an event to benefit First Downs for Down Syndrome. Members of the team, cheerleaders, and the mascot, KC Wolf, will visit a KFC restaurant in Raytown, Missouri today to kick off the month-long fundraising effort. Customers visiting the KFC restaurant between October 1 and November 4 will be able to donate $1.00 to the organization, which aims to raise awareness and foster a positive image of those living with the condition.

Some choose to honor the month in smaller ways, though the impact is also great. Gillian Marchenko, a mother of two girls with Down syndrome, is posting on her blog every day this month. Ms. Marchenko writes about the challenges she and her family face as they raise four children and struggle to meet the needs of all of them. A graphic on her website proclaims “The internet is full of accomplished people who have it together. My site is for the rest of us.” She writes honestly about both the setbacks they face and the joys of raising children with Down syndrome.

Whether nationwide or close to home, many people across the US are honoring the ones they love during Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The message throughout is one of hope and acceptance, that people with Down syndrome will be given every opportunity to succeed and engage in a meaningful way in their communities.