Jared is a man who defies all stereotypes of what it means to be an adult with Down syndrome. An independent and creative guy, Jared lives in his own apartment, where he writes country-rock music and daydreams of starting his own business. The name he would give it is, “Look Up, Not Down.”
“Sometimes,” he explained, “parents have anxiety about raising their child that has a disability, I want to help them with that.”
When not at home Jared keeps busy. During the school year, he walks close to twenty minutes one way to get to the public elementary school where he works. While this isn’t too bad of an excursion, he admits in the winter it can be cold and a little long. Yet it’s worth it, to be able to help keep the school clean, make sure milk is available for the students, and be able to give the kids a warm smile as he serves them their lunches.
Jared also makes time to volunteer. An opportunity at GiGi’s Playhouse made it possible for Jared to volunteer at Syracuse Stage. If you attend a play there you might be fortunate enough to have him greet you with a smile as well as hand you, your program. He relishes this experience as an usher, but this is not the only place he generously gives his time. One day a week he comes to GiGi’s Playhouse as a volunteer. He enjoys helping with administrative duties, completing some light cleaning, or doing a little organizing. In addition, he helps with the Playhouse’s Hugs and Mugs office. Tucked away in the back left corner of the Playhouse you will find a place to buy, among other things, mugs for your coffee or tea. These items are hand-designed by individuals with Down syndrome. Jared can design, as well as press a mug from beginning to end. What he really loves though is meeting the people that stop into the Playhouse and giving newcomers a tour.
As you can probably tell, Jared loves to socialize. GiGi’s Playhouse where he has been participating in different programs since he was a teen, he’s now 27 years old, is the perfect place for that. Once a month he can both socialize and hone his cooking talents at a program called Gluten-Free Cooking. Each meeting begins with everyone congregating in the kitchen to make a meal. Someone might be cutting vegetables for a salad, flipping pancakes or layering ingredients to make a yogurt parfait depending on the menu for the night. Once dinner is made, everyone sits at the table together ready to eat and share in an integral part of the program; dinner conversation. People share the highs and lows of their day, just like family, and friendships blossom. The conversation ends with a group decision about what the menu will look like the next time they’ll be together, then everyone pitches in to clean up.
Fantastic Friends, another of Jared’s favorite programs, is designed completely for fun and hanging out with friends; new and old. Some of the activities this group has done in the past include painting, game nights, movies and popcorn, karaoke, or even a night out to a restaurant together. The group has also done some community service filling blizzard bags for Meals on Wheels (food for recipients to have on the day’s meals can’t be delivered because the roads are snowy). Jared is working on going beyond participating, to helping lead this group he loves.
“GiGi’s is a wonderful place,” Jared told me. “People are really accepting and caring. I feel like I’m part of a family there. It really is my happy place.”
Be sure to head over to our GiGi’s Silent Auction happening April 25th & 26th. Thank you for your support and for helping GiGi’s Playhouse to continue to offer FREE programs for Jared and all his friends!