31-year old Terrell Newman is crushing life like his favorite WWE wrestler Sasha Banks. “I love wrestling,” Newman gushes. “I watch it every Monday and Tuesday night. Sasha Banks is a legit boss. One day I want to be general manager of WWE Smackdown.”
Newman’s enthusiasm for wrestling – and life – are contagious. His mother, Charlotte Dixson, says he’s always been like that. “He is a very outgoing person, a social butterfly with a humble spirit, a bubbly personality, with a caring and compassionate heart. He meets no stranger and he loves everyone.”
But things weren’t always so rosy. Born in Wurzburg, Germany while his parents were serving in the Army, Newman was transported from a U.S. military hospital to a German hospital for “complications” shortly after birth. His mother wasn’t allowed to see him for four days.
“As soon as I held him, I just knew he had Down syndrome,” Dixson recalls. “I cried, not out of disappointment or shame, but out of guilt and confusion. I recall a voice coming to me and it said, ‘Why are you crying? God knew he needed special people to take care of him, so He sent Terrell to you.’ It was at that moment I knew everything would be alright.”
Because Newman is extremely high-functioning and independent, Dixson struggled to find the appropriate placement for him. Newman was put in special education classes in Indianapolis Public Schools. “It broke my heart when they told me he would never graduate and get a high school diploma. That was devastating to me. These days lots of kids with Down syndrome not only graduate high school, but go to college. Things were different back then.”
Newman received a Certificate of Completion from Arlington High School in 2006, but never found meaningful work – until last year. Newman is now an intern at GiGi’s Playhouse, volunteering 15 hours or more a week. He’s especially fond of the time he spends with the LMNOP class designed for kids ages newborn to 36 months.
Just mention the babies and Newman lights up. “I love the babies. I love to hold the babies and be kind of like a big brother to them.”
“GiGi’s is such a wonderful place because they cater to people at all ability levels – children and adults,” Dixson says. “Before GiGi’s, Terrell was just sitting at home, playing video games, and having no quality of life. GiGi’s has truly been a Godsend for us. It’s given his life purpose.”
In addition to the time he spends interning, Newman also takes a ballroom dance class and is enrolled in several adult classes including E.P.I.C., S.M.A.R.T., GiGiFit, Cooking Club, and Fantastic Friends.
“I love GiGi’s because I make a lot of friends,” Newman says. “I love to have Down syndrome because it makes me special. I make a lot of people smile. God wanted me to be at GiGi’s.”
“I thank God for Terrell – he is truly a blessing and I wouldn’t trade the experience of having a child with Down syndrome for nothing in the world,” Dixson say. “The experience is priceless!”
Terrell’s uplifting story and outlook on life are an inspiration, and we are proud to honor him as the 2019 3.21 Mile Run Adult Honoree.