Awareness~ October is Down syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness and celebrate people with Down syndrome. It is a great time to share the news and make the world aware of the abilities and many accomplishments of people born with Down syndrome. It is my hope that we can do more than make others aware. There is so much more to it than that! I hope you get a chance to feel it!
I am the very lucky mom of three amazing children. Yes, since I am their mom, that makes me biased, but they truly are amazing! Carley, 19, is a freshman in college, Ansley, 15, is a high school sophomore and Braden is 11 years old, attends ECLC in Chatham, NJ and has Down syndrome. Before Braden was born, I was certainly aware of Down syndrome. I was a teacher and privately tutored a little girl who had Down syndrome. I was aware that she was bright and funny. I was aware that she was adorable and adored by her family. I was aware that she had challenges. She was in a body cast from hip surgery and couldn’t attend school until she recovered. I was aware that this family was also quite like any other.
It wasn’t until May of 2005 that I would become more aware than that. On May 13, 2005 at 11:00pm, Braden Porter Hopton was born with Down syndrome. There are many words that I can use to describe the hours, days, and weeks that followed. I was scared, shocked, worried, anxious, tired, and aware. I was suddenly very aware of what a diagnosis of Down syndrome could mean to Braden, to me, to my family, and to my world. I heard all about it from the neonatologists, I read about it online and in books. All of these resources were of course helpful but none of these resources told me what I would soon learn from Braden about having Down syndrome. Braden taught me to be patient and cheerful. He taught me the meaning of true tenacity. He brought a level of happiness into our home that we would never have expected. I believe that each of us is better for knowing Braden: we are more understanding, we realize that we have been given gifts and talents that it is our responsibility to honor to the best of our ability, and we watch Braden do this daily.
The world of Down syndrome is a lovely place. We entered a world of kindness. We were now a part of the most supportive, phenomenal community imaginable, the Down syndrome community. We met therapists and teachers dedicated to enriching the lives of these beautiful babies with Down syndrome. We met parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings of these beautiful babies who had Down syndrome. We all shared something special now. It was as if we were members of a special club. There is a “feeling” that I have no words to describe. The closest thing I can think of would be JOY!
Being aware that people who have Down syndrome are smart, funny, beautiful, and talented people is great. Being fortunate enough to experience the “feeling” of knowing someone who has Down syndrome is extraordinary. If you are one of the lucky people who have a close personal connection to the Down syndrome community, I’m so happy for you. If you haven’t yet been given that opportunity, I hope that you will do more than make yourself aware. I hope that you get to feel it!
Please come celebrate Braden, raise awareness and have a blast with The Nerds at Cocktails for a Cause “Celebrating Our Children” on Saturday, November 5th.
–Stephanie Hopton (Mother of Braden)
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