WHY DO YOU SUPPORT ROCK THE 21?
I support Rock the 21 because I have witnessed firsthand how the organization has provided resources and opportunities to people with Down syndrome (DS) that were not available to my uncle, who has DS, when he was growing up in the 1960s.
HOW IS LIFE DIFFERENT NOW FOR PEOPLE WITH DS THAN IT WAS WHEN YOUR UNCLE WAS BORN?
When my uncle, Peter, was born 59 years ago, my grandparents were told to institutionalize him and not expect him to live beyond his teenage years, even though he did not have any significant medical problems at birth. In spite of this, my grandparents raised him just like his three older siblings. Peter attended public school, went to summer camp and eventually moved into a group home. He held various jobs around the county, including his favorite, retrieving the shopping carts at the local Shop Rite. He was lucky that my grandparents didn't take the advice doctors were giving at the time. They advocated for him and gave him an opportunity to be a valued member of society, something that many others were not as fortunate to have.
Although some of the programs in which my uncle has been involved with, like the Special Olympics, are still very important, there are so many more opportunities now for people with DS in schools, in the workplace and in the community than when he was young.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE PROGRAM ROCK THE 21 HAS SUPPORTED, THUS FAR?
I have two! First, the Scholarship Fund that offers financial assistance to early intervention programs at Stepping Stones School for toddlers whose families might not otherwise be able to afford. These therapies are integral to the development of children with DS. I have seen first-hand how Stepping Stones helped my little friend Emma with her speech and motor skills, opportunities I wish had been available 60 years ago. For the most part, my uncle is non-verbal. I know for sure that if he had received these crucial therapies early in life he would have much better developed speaking and writing abilities.
Second, is the job sampling program. My uncle always enjoyed going to work, interacting with people and completing tasks. Now that he's retired, he still feels a sense of satisfaction when working in the yard or around the house. I'm glad to see others receiving even more opportunities in the workplace today! -- Erin Lynch