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Nikki’s Why

The Knodel Family – A good looking bunch of Bison fans!!

My son Max is 6 years old. He is in kindergarten and loves learning to read (and also lunch, recess and gym). The Bison and Eagles are his favorite teams and he has a wicked fastball. Max is grandpa’s biggest “helper” on the farm-the dirtier he can get the happier he is. He is an amazing big brother to his sister Kate. Max is really not much different than any other six-year-old little boy other than he happens to have Down syndrome.

From the very beginning I knew there was something special about my pregnancy- I just had no idea how life changing it would truly be. During my 20-week ultrasound, a heart defect was detected. Further testing confirmed a diagnosis of Down syndrome. After hearing the results, I remember going home, sitting on the couch and I started to plan. What was I going to do help my child and give him or her the best life possible? I hit the internet fast and furiously.  Read everything I could get my hands on-most of which was inaccurate and painted a somewhat negative picture of Down syndrome. I ignored those and focused on the information that

Miracle Max.

inspired and gave hope for the future. I was armed and ready- bring it on, Down syndrome!!  I marched into the Department of Human Services in June asking how to get set up for services. The case worker asked how old my child was and I said- he or she will be here in August. She gave me a strange look and I explained that I knew my child would have Down syndrome and wanted information to get set up for Early Intervention. We had in-home services the day we arrived home from the hospital, and so began my job as an advocate.
At four months old, Max’s had some significant health issues due to his heart defect. During this time a physician made a comment that made me realize just how important my roles as a mother and advocate for Max truly are. When discussing surgical options for Max’s heart he said “Even if we can fix his heart, there is no guarantee on the quality of his life.”  I know without a doubt he was referring to Max having Down syndrome. From that moment on, I committed myself to ensuring Max’s quality of life would be the remarkable and he would reach his full potential.

GiGi’s is providing so many opportunities to help each individual to reach their full potential. I am thankful to be a part of something that has such a positive impact on the families we serve. It’s difficult to describe the connections between families that are made through GiGi’s. We celebrate and laugh together, we empathize and cry together, we support and encourage each other. But most of all, we are inspired together. Thank you GiGi’s, for helping Max reach his fullest potential!


Remember GiGi’s Playhouse on February 9th for Giving Hearts Day 2017!!

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