October 1 begins Down syndrome “Awareness” Month but awareness is not nearly enough.
Awareness is simply acknowledging an existence, a challenge, etc. Human beings are so more than an existence or a challenge. Acceptance is an ACTION and a commitment to extend consistent value, approval, and empowerment. I’m very fortunate to work at GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers and honored to know hundreds of children and adults with Down syndrome as well as their amazing families. They do not benefit from passive “awareness”. Kids do not realize opportunities to excel in school or forge lasting friendships because people are “aware”. Adults with Down syndrome are never offered meaningful jobs because employers are “aware”. Communities don’t unite to foster more accepting schools and online environments by exercising “awareness”. Hope, progress, achievement, friendships, wellness, academics, employment, and lasting change result from ACTION: the action of ACCEPTANCE.
This October GiGi’s Playhouse locations across the country will be approaching local mayors and other leaders at state and (hopefully) federal levels to request that October be formally proclaimed as Down syndrome ACCEPTANCE Month: a more relevant, respectful, and actionable acknowledgment of more than 450,000 heroic children and adults across the United States who overcome more in an hour than many people face in an entire day, week, month, or year. And most certainly, actionable acceptance should never be limited to one month out of the year.
I encourage you and all of your respective networks to use the following hashtags in October in social media posts that have anything to do with acceptance, dignity, generosity and kindness: #downsyndromeawarenessmonth, #downsyndromeacceptancemonth, and #GenerationG: a movement to be better every day. To be more accepting, generous and kind. I also ask that you please make the time to visit a GiGi’s Playhouse in your community. Spend 30 minutes visiting with participants and families. Introduce your children to our children. Continue supporting opportunities for kids with Down syndrome to be accepted in school activities including sports, arts, social events and of course academics. Consider the opportunity to hire a young adult with Down syndrome at your company or extend them a meaningful volunteer opportunity. Become a Facebook Fan of GiGi’s Playhouse, Inc. and follow a journey of empowerment, inspiration, courage, and acceptance. Acceptance will grow with your help.
And while you may not know them (yet), I am so humbled to call the following people friends and leaders: GiGi, Katelynn, Christine Maxwell,Farzin Sharyari, Chris Tucker, Samir, Patrick, Kiera, Matt, Aubsome Aubrey, Sam, Ramsen, Brian, Jenny, Ali, Nicole, Renee Vrchota, Nancy Stinger- Gianni, Kristin Malek, Dana Michelle DeGraff Garcia, Melissa Anne Ciraulo,Christine Flatley Loukota, Michelle Hughes, Heather Rodriguez, Daniell Clark Bargstadt, Diane Maxwell, and so many more children, adults and families.
Happy Down syndrome ACCEPTANCE Month to all. Please enjoy this video created by Northwestern University Dance Marathon: visionary student and philanthropic leaders who understand that acceptance is so much more than one month out of the year.
Crank it up and live it loud.