Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day 3-21-21
Each Wednesday morning GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis is alive with excitement waiting for the triple stroller to roll in, according to Site Coordinator Judy Co. Jean Holthouse and her three darling children Danny, Sammy, and Cammy, arrive to engage in the Amina Grace Speech Program. Jean shares that it can take up to an hour to get everyone ready, bundled into the car and arrive at GiGi’s, but she wouldn’t miss it. Jean and her husband Daniel are living a beautiful life full of love and acceptance.
Jean tells us the family story.
Our adoption journey was long. When we realized we would not have biological children, adoption became our next step. Actually, adoption was always something we wanted to do, but it became our first line of action.
Initially we pursued domestic adoption while praying for God’s will and listening to what He wanted for us. We did a lot of research and kept coming back to special needs adoption. The more we learned about how adopted children with special needs flourish in families, the more it felt right. However, we still did not know which avenue to pursue. Then we connected with Rainbow Kids, an adoption and child welfare advocacy organization for children around the world, including those with special needs.
Every day they sent us videos of children from around the world with special needs. Each time we saw a child with Down syndrome we said, ‘Oh that child is just so beautiful.’ Over time we felt God putting a desire in our hearts. However, international adoption is very expensive, so we only admired the children and prayed for them, but felt it was not something we could do.
We got on the domestic adoption list and soon discovered there is a waiting list to adopt children with Down syndrome. There are many families who want to adopt children with Down syndrome because they are so awesome, and families want an opportunity to give them a life of love in this world.
We continued to receive the daily emails from Rainbow Kids, and one day we saw a picture of Danny. I do not know what it was about him, there was something so special and we felt, That’s our son! We did not know where Bulgaria was or how much it would cost, but something changed that day for us. We called the agency right away and said, we want to bring him home! and the adoption process began. Today Danny, now 6 years old, is a tall, quiet little man who loves learning new things.
We knew Danny needed to have a sibling. We waited to figure out what God’s will was for us and our family. Daniel and I are both pretty laid back, so it was natural for us to wait and see what the next good step would be.
We thoughtfully discussed if we wanted to adopt another child with Down syndrome. Yes, we reflected, that this is great; it wasn’t really a question, however, the challenges of international adoption involve trauma, and processing that trauma is a little harder for a child with Down syndrome. While daunting, we thought that these children need a home. While we are not experts, we know more than other people because we have done it once and we seemed like the natural choice to give them a home and give them lots of extra love. We joined the international adoption list again and received an email about Sammy in Bulgaria. We decided to adopt him about 6 months after Danny came home with us. Today Sammy is an adventurous and fun-loving 5-year old boy who loves to explore.
You may have heard the saying; third time is the charm. Thinking we were ready to adopt again, an email about a little girl named Camelia arrived. We decided she was just the right addition to our family and began the process again.
My sister-in-law Megan put together a spring flower fundraiser on our behalf, because, as she put it: “What better way to welcome a little girl than with flowers!” We also started a Go Fund Me site to help with adoption costs, they are around $35,000 per adoption. Friends and family also helped with fundraisers.
Last December Cammy became an official member of the Holthouse family. Cammy is a beautiful three-year-old girl from Bulgaria. She has brown hair like her adopted dad, blue-green eyes like her adopted mom, and Trisomy 21 like her new big brothers. What an amazing first Christmas together. Cammy is so funny and adorable. She is a little ray of sunshine and such a blessing to our family.
The opportunity to have children for a family with infertility is the hugest blessing on earth. It is just so amazing to have a beautiful family and especially with these really special children who overcome challenges every day and who have truly unconditional love. They are an example to us daily.
Challenges, yes there are some. Who knew that a pandemic would come in 2020! My friends with typical kids seem pretty much just as exhausted as I am! It is not different having children with Down syndrome, except perhaps lots of medical appointments, and maybe slightly different expectations.
In a pandemic the education issues are a huge challenge. Maybe if we had one child, we could swing the distance learning, but with three, there would have to be three of me! I have overcome that by deciding not to do online classes. We come together in the living room and see what we can learn together, at least until classes are in-person sessions. We are taking it day by day, seeing the best that they can do, and celebrating each achievement. Not comparing our children to others has been a benefit to our character. We have just slowed down and appreciate the little things in life.
This year, our speech provider closed operations due to the pandemic and the kids were without therapy for six months. What a huge blessing to be able to be part of GiGi’s Amina Grace Speech and Language program! After just a few sessions with the Loyola Clinical Center student clinicians, we have seen an explosion in speech from our kids. Even our anxious one is so excited to come to our beloved GiGi’s Playhouse to “play” with his fun teacher. We cannot say enough good things about this program, nor adequately express our gratitude to be part of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The Amina Grace Speech Program is something they all really look forward to. From the moment we get home from GiGi’s, we talk about coming back again next week and they’re so excited about it, it’s a huge highlight for us.
GiGi’s is a place we can come where we know we will not only be accepted for who we are but also celebrated. As a mom, this is the place I feel most supported of anywhere on earth, because I know there will be a bunch of adults who are excited to see our kids and who are going to be looking for a way to support my children and give me a little break too. It is just amazing. The programming is incredible, and it is really neat to see other children with Down syndrome in programs like LMNOP. I love seeing how other kids with Down syndrome are developing and think at some point our children may be able to do those things too. I just admire the other kids.
In addition to GiGi’s signature programs such as LMNOP, Leaps & Bounds, Crawlers & Walkers and The Amina Grace Speech program, we have enjoyed various events such as GiGi’s holiday activities, Noon Year’s Eve party, summer guitar sing along, the bike riding program, and meeting Mr. Peanut to name a few. We love GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis. It is the highlight any time that we can come on a regular basis.
Thank you to you all for the birthday card GiGi’s sent to the kids on their birthdays. This year Danny was amazed that he got a card from GiGi’s Playhouse and was so delighted with it that he handled it with care, frequently pulling it out of its envelope to admire the printed picture of lightening McQueen and then carefully replacing it. It was adorable!
We are so grateful for this fantastic organization and your devotion to our children❤️❤️!
What a beautiful growing family full of grace, love, acceptance and kindness. We celebrate with you, and all our community, on World Down Syndrome Day!