Similar to most new parents, the arrival of my daughter in 2010 left me feeling overwhelmed and concerned for the future. Unlike most new parents, my feelings were primarily the result of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. A diagnosis that wasn’t on my radar and one I was completely unfamiliar with.
While trying to put on a brave face for my family, I was scouring the internet for information and support. I wanted to know what kind of future my daughter would have and how my wife and I could make sure she had every chance to live a good life. I found that many other parents of children with Down syndrome were searching for resources, support, and ultimately, hope. Hope that the community would be inclusive. Hope that their child’s life would be celebrated. And hope for a better future.
As our daughter grew, we experienced the joy that comes with having a child with Down syndrome. Families like ours began coming together to celebrate our children with Down syndrome. The celebrations started out small, as family affairs for Christmas and Easter. Our community expanded and we recognized the need for parents to have access to more information and the ability to understand what resources were available. We started raising money to help with celebrations and slowly came to the conclusion that we could more.
At a fundraiser, I met Dr. McKee. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, he was interviewing me to see how committed I was to making a difference for my daughter and others in the community. He asked me what I was looking for and what I was willing to do to make that a reality. Dr. McKee began sharing his vision with me and it was as if he knew what we all had been searching for. His confidence assured me that we could create a better future if we all worked together. With Dr. McKee’s encouragement, I visited KinderFrogs in Fort Worth, Texas. KinderFrogs is a special education program for children with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges.
After experiencing the KinderFrogs program, I knew we needed to provide similar resources to the families in El Paso. With the help of the El Paso Community Foundation and commitment of other parents, we began to develop ideas to organize and create information and services for parents and children with Down syndrome in El Paso. It was like the Yellow Brick Road. We were following a path forward for our kids.
In January 2015, we formed the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso. To serve our community, we host an annual educational symposium for parents, launched a local chapter book club for teens and young adults and opened a preschool modeled after KinderFrogs, known as Every Little Blessing.
The goal of the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso is to partner with more organizations, more parents, and the greater community, to create a better world for all individuals with special needs. Thank you for your support of the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso.
Felipe Martinez, President of the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso