SiblingSpotlightSeries

Sibling Spotlight Series: Gianna and Chris Rahill

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Gianna: Chris makes me smile - he says Happy Birthday to me and gives me presents. He buys me fashion dresses, makes me laugh, he makes jokes. He asks me, “How was your day?”. He has a beautiful face. 

Chris: The most important thing I want the world to know about Gianna is how she is more alike than different in so many ways. I think people sometimes look at individuals with Down syndrome, and they assume that they can't do things that typical kids can do. We see it the exact opposite way. Gianna can do just about anything she puts her mind to, and we are so proud of her for that. She excels in school, plays for the CYO basketball team, takes dance class, participates in the school play, and so much more. We want the world to treat her just the same as they would treat anyone else, because that’s the way she lives her life and wants to be treated.

How has your sibling surprised you?

Gianna: Chris yells, “Surprise!” and he makes me a cake.

Chris: She is so, so smart. She really surprises me sometimes with the things that she knows and remembers. She will ask me about things that happened months or years ago, and it blows my mind sometimes that she can remember things in that much detail. It just makes me realize how intently she listens and pays attention during our conversations. I love having those little talks with Gianna, it makes me happy that we can connect like that.

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

Gianna: He loves me, he makes me happy, that’s it. He does stuff for me, like cleaning my room and helping me with my homework. Cut - this interview is over.

Chris: Wow, this is a tough one because there are so many things that I love about G. I think what I love most is how loving and caring she is. She always greets me with a smile and a big hug when I get home, and she always asks about my day. She notices when someone is sad or having a rough day, and she always wants to make them feel better. She genuinely cares about other people. She is like a mini-Mom in our family.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Dana and Patrick Eden

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Dana: I want the world to know about the amazing heart Patrick has. Every time he meets someone he is open to them as a person, he doesn’t judge someone before getting to know them. Patrick makes everyone feel welcomed, he is always one to lighten the mood or make everyone feel comfortable by cracking a joke or saying something no one would expect at that moment. He is always keeping everything interesting, I am never bored hanging out with my brother. I want the world to know how much he is capable of; he is surprising me every day. I want the world to never doubt him, always give him a chance and remember everyone is special in their own way and to not treat them differently because of this!

Patrick: Dana is pretty.

How has your sibling surprised you?

Dana: This past year I was most surprised by the progress my brother has made and the things he can understand. We lost our mother in March of 2017, not knowing how this would affect him and his day to day life, scared me a lot. I was unsure how he would process it, if he would fully understand it and how he might change as a person because of it. Patrick shows that he fully understands what happened and that our mom is now in heaven and he is okay with it. He will blow kisses to the sky saying “I’m sending mom kisses.” He will talk about how he misses her but always ends the conversation with “We have good memories with her.” Every time he talks about her or about her passing, he is so mature about it and still is able to have a positive mindset on life and the situation. When I get upset or start feeling bad for myself, I think about him and what he would say, and how I can think more like him. He has made the loss of my mother so much easier and I feel a piece of her inside of him every day and that is the most amazing feeling ever. He has had his best year yet at school and his behaviors have improved so much within the last year. I could not be more surprised with him, I thought because of what happened that his behaviors might increase, he won’t do well in school and he won’t be able to process this horrible death in the family, but I was wrong. He is doing amazing in school, his behaviors have gotten so much better and to be honest, I think he might be processing the loss of our mother better than I have. Never underestimate individuals with Down syndrome, their abilities and what they are capable of understanding will blow you away, just give them a chance to show you.  

Patrick: On my birthday she made a chocolate cake. It was good.

What do you love most about your brother?

Dana: What I love most about my sibling is that he has the ability to brighten anyone’s day even if you only have a short conversation with him. Patrick’s love is so powerful and strong; he brings our family closer together every day. His love is simply unconditional and I try every day to love the way he does. I love that I can always be myself around him and he will never think differently of me. I love that he is so honest and will never say something just because he knows it’s what you want to hear. I have never met a more honest person and I hope to be able to be honest with everyone I encounter because it is such a good trait to have. My love for Patrick will never die, I miss him every time we are apart and I am exploding with happiness when we are back together. Everyone needs someone like Patrick in their life, and I am blessed he is my brother

Patrick: She is amazing. She is smart. She is brave like me. She works out with me. I like to go to the pool with her and Jessie.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Maggie and Scotty Lesmes

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Maggie: While the world may see Scotty as a one-dimensional individual with Down syndrome, I want the world to know that he’s more than his disability. He has many artistic passions, from writing original comic books, to singing and acting on a stage, and endless goals for the future. He wants to go to college, live independently, and eventually, find love and have a family of his own, just like everybody else. Although many people may see his capabilities and opportunities as limited, I want the world to know that he’s just getting started. 

Scotty: That she is a kind and generous person to be around with. Maggie is awesome and she will always be at your side when you are down.

How has your sibling surprised you?

Maggie: Scotty continues to surprise me on a daily basis. He never stops challenging the barriers that try to hold him back. Right now, he’s applying to 4-year undergraduate programs at various universities, and I could not be more proud of his drive and ambition.

Scotty: Maggie has surprised me by being there for me when I need her. Maggie always has my back and I couldn’t have asked for a better sister than that. I love how Maggie knows about music and she is also a great singer.

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

Maggie: What I love most about Scotty is his humor. He spends his life making people laugh and smile, and he never fails at doing so, even without trying. He makes it his goal to make the others around him happy on a daily basis, and I could not be luckier to call myself his sister.

Scotty: That she always makes my day with a smile and also believes in me and my future. I know she will always be there for me. Maggie is really funny and knows how to make me laugh all the time.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Freddie and Jennifer Gaffney

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling? 

Freddie: She is fun. I love Jennifer. Best sister in the world. Jennifer is nice and helps me sometimes. Jennifer takes me out to places to eat and we sing in the car. Jennifer is silly and makes me laugh. Jennifer is my best friend.

Jen:  I want the world to know that my brother can do anything he wants to do, I am witness to it every day. My brother is determined, stubborn, and strong in all the best ways and has exceeded all expectations people have placed upon him.

How has your sibling surprised you?            

Freddie: With an Eagles shirt. I like Jennifer at Camp PALS. Jennifer buys me hot chocolate..Jennifer made me a Phillies blanket. She gave me a mickey hat from Disney. 

Jen:  Freddie has surprised me on a personal level, with how strong of a sibling connection we have. No matter how I act, he knows when I am hurt or upset, and will always ask me, “what’s the matter?” and pulls me into a hug. He can tell what’s going on when no one else can. The best part is when he hugs me, he asks, “what are you doing?” I in return tell him that I am hugging him. He always asks, “why?” but he knows the answer, as it is our routine. “Because I love you” I say, to which he always responds, “And I love you.” This has never not made me feel better.

What do you love most about your brother/sister?     

Freddie: She is nice. I like to drive with Jennifer. I like to take care of my sister. I like when she takes a nap on my lap. Jennifer is my best sister in the world. I love Jennifer. 

Jen: One of the things I love most about my brother is his never-ending smile. He is genuinely happy 99.9% of the time, which is a hard task I would say to many people as they go about their daily lives. When he’s sick, he is still smiling. When he’s bored, he is smiling. When someone seems angry or upset, he is smiling and laughing trying to make them feel better. Happiness radiates off of Freddie and I am so grateful to have such a positive light in my life. He reminds me on the worst of days that even the simplest of pleasures are something to smile about.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Mary Kate and Patrick Foraker

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Mary Kate: I want the world to know that Patrick doesn’t view himself as “different” from any typically abled person. He has the same hopes and aspirations that many of us have. Specifically going to college, getting married and having a family are a few of the things that Patrick always talks about when asked about his future. I have no doubt that Patrick will accomplish all of his goals because he’s fully capable of living a fulfilled, happy and independent life. 

Patrick: I want the world to know that Mary Kate wants to work in healthcare as a nurse. She loves to hangout with her friends. She is talented and independent. 

How has your sibling surprised you?

Mary Kate: Patrick has surprised me through this ability to never sweat the little things. He doesn’t worry about people’s perceptions of him, he doesn’t stress out over tests in school, or if he will get a role in the school play. He just lives life with no regrets. It surprises me because he has no self-doubt, which is pretty rare in a world riddled with self conscious people.

Patrick: When I was born Mary Kate was proud to have a brother with Down syndrome. At this moment we became friends. I always call her my princess and she always calls me her brother prince. 

What do you love most about your sibling?

Mary Kate: Patrick’s ability to be fearless definitely plays into what I love about him most, which is his confidence. He isn’t intimidated by any situation or person. Not only is he confident in social situations and school, but he’s incredibly confident and comfortable with who he is as an individual. I’ve asked Patrick before, “if you could change one thing about yourself what would you change” and he confidently responded with, “Nothing.” That kind of self-love is something everyone should strive for, and something Patrick has already achieved at 18 years old. 

Patrick: Mary Kate is an outgoing person. I love how she always hangs out with me and gets in-n-out burger with me. I love that she loves to help people. She always makes me laugh with her jokes. 

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Kevin and Megan Cloyes

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Kevin: I want the world to know just how much my sister has accomplished. Too many people set low expectations for people with Down syndrome. I like to set the bar high. I’ve watched my sister crush the expectations of her friends, family, and the doctor who told my mom Megan would never have a sense of humor. She is a high school graduate and scholarship winner. She applied to, and was accepted to The College of New Jersey’s Career and Community Services Program, where she graduated with a higher GPA than I got in college. She has even done some modeling work for Toys R Us and a few walks down the runway. Most importantly, she is an accomplished public speaker and self advocate. In 2015, Megan was recipient of the Dan Piper Award at the NYC Buddy Walk for recognition of how, through everyday activities, she has brought about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down syndrome. I want the world to know that the bar does not need to be set low for individuals with disabilities, because my sister has had no problems crushing the high one I prefer to set for her.

Megan: My brother Kevin has a job in Arlington, VA but I don’t know exactly what he does. He likes to hang out with friends and have fun. We like to blast music really loud and sing when we are in the car together.

How has your sibling surprised you?

Kevin: Megan has surprised me with her confidence. Most people look at individuals with disabilities and think about all the things they can’t or will never do. Even in the face of that adversity, Megan takes great pride in her abilities and never shies away from an opportunity to tell you about them. Her tenacity and spunk for letting everyone know exactly what she is capable of is a quality I envy and admire.

Megan: He surprised me when he told me that we were both going back to Camp PALS Maine this summer! I was so excited. He does a great job running closing ceremonies and we both love the lobster rolls.  He surprises me every Christmas and we go to a movie and out for a lunch or dinner.

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

Kevin: Every once in a while, after a particularly great event, a major accomplishment, or just on a beautiful day, Megan will out of the blue state, “I love my life.” And she really, really means it. Megan’s love of life brings people together in a way that nothing else can. That is what I love most about my big sister Megan.

Megan: He is the best brother ever and he always cares about me. We love to have Chinese food and drinks and just talk. He helps me when I am doing my People crossword puzzles. My not favorite thing about Kevin is that he always beats me at Bananagrams!

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Samantha, Tess, and Josh Gordon

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Samantha: Josh is a great brother and lives in Brooklyn. When he comes home for a visit, we go for coffee and he takes me out at night to local bars and have a drink and visit with a lot of people. It’s cool, I love it. We stay out late.

My sister Tess is my best friend. She just finished college and has a job in Syracuse. She takes me to Gibby’s Irish Pub and we watch SU games. We go to Oswego Laker Hockey games. She includes me with her friends a lot.

Tess: My sister appreciates every little thing in life and she is always putting others before herself. She prays to God every day and she lets everyone know how much she loves her life. She is my biggest supporter and always checks up on me to see how my day is going or to make sure I’m doing okay. Samantha can brighten up any room that she walks into.

Josh: I want the world to know that the little things make the biggest difference, and my sister is the embodiment of that simple phrase. We often get so caught up in ourselves it’s hard to think about anyone else. Samantha is always thinking about others. She can put a smile on anyone’s face even on days when life gets you down without much effort at all. I think this applies to all of our friends with a disability, honestly. I want the world to just take a closer look and step back for a moment to realize how much the little things like a ‘hello’ or a smile make a difference to some people.  

How has your sibling surprised you?

Samantha: My brother Josh and sister Tess surprise me by being Camp PALS Counselors many times and they love it as much as I do. We all meet the same people and have the same friends. Especially Shelby Rosario! She was my counselor many times. 

Tess: She works hard every day at becoming more independent. Samantha is very capable of many things that people may not think she is able of doing. She is always looking for more ways to develop her living and social skills. Everywhere we go she always knows people and just walks up to anyone to start a conversation. The look on her face shows how happy she is just to be spending time with other people.

Josh: Her everyday positivity is something that I wish everyone would practice. She has made friends through all walks of life and can carry on a conversation with anyone. Whenever we go out, I’m always surprised at how many people she knows and it’s very comforting to see her interact with such a diverse group. The impact she has had on the people she has met is clearly visible throughout these moments. Whether she just met them at the store earlier in the week or had one class with them, everyone always remembers her and it’s surprising to see such a widespread impact amongst her peers, outside of just our family.

What do you love most about your Sibling(s)?

Samantha: I love it most when Josh sends me a morning text on his way to work. I love it when he facetimes me and when he tells me he heard one of my favorite songs on the radio and says he thinks of me.

I love it when Tess and I have 'Wine at Nine’ at home every night. She likes white and I like red. I love wearing matching SU slippers when we watch the game at home. I love it when she takes me for a cruise and to eat at Fajita Grill. 

Tess: My sister always knows just how to put a smile on my face, whether it’s by sending a simple text or decorating my room with hundreds of notes for my birthday. She is always writing little notes for me saying how thankful she is to have me as a sister. Something this simple can turn my day from bad to great in an instant. She loves to celebrate others and she is always finding something to celebrate in life. One of the things I cherish is our nightly glass of wine that we enjoy together before bed. My sister is my best friend and I’m so lucky to have her in my life.

Josh: I love the daily texts that put a smile on my face as I get onto a crowded subway each morning. I love the random letters that find their way into my mailbox. While these messages are so spontaneous, the general theme of doing something just to make others happy is something that I wish we all could think of each and every day. Whether it’s an email, a note, a letter… It’s the multitude of little things that I love. She’s the glue that keeps our family so close together.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Grace and Gretchen Wahle

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Grace: I want everyone to understand how loving my sister is. I also want everyone to know how capable she is. She surprises me even every day with everything she does. She is such a joy to be around and I wish everyone saw this in her. She just wants to be treated as everyone else

Gretchen: I want the world to know my sister is smart and pretty. 

How has your sibling surprised you?

Grace: My sister has surprised me by her motivation and positivity for everything she does in her life. She has such a strong drive to be successful and make others happy. She wants so much for herself and I love that about her. It really inspires me. The love and acceptance she has for everyone she meets also amazes me. I’ve never met someone as loving as my sister. She amazes me! 

Gretchen: My sister has surprised me by everything she’s done. She has also always been so helpful to me. 

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

Grace: I love how much she loves me and how much I love her. I love coming home to my sister after a long day and just getting a huge hug from her. It makes everything better. She has really impacted my life in such positive ways and I feel so blessed

Gretchen: I love how nice and sweet my sister is to me. She is so nice and she has a great relationship with me. I love her so much.


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Sibling Spotlight Series: Steve and David Sabia

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

David: I want the world to know that, in a lot of ways, my brother is just like everyone else. He is not “always happy” and does not “always like to give hugs”. Sometimes he is overflowing with happiness and excitement; other times he is frustrated, moody, and upset with himself or others. He has weakness and areas in his life he needs to work on; but he also has immense strengths and goals that he hopes to achieve. There are undoubtedly some things that others have done that he will never do, but there are also of plenty of other things he HAS done that others will never accomplish. However, there is one more way he is like everyone else: he is completely unique. He has his own perspective, his own opinions, his own reactions, his own perceptions, his own challenges, his own triumphs, his own dreams, and his own vision for how he would like to live his life. If I could have the world know anything about Steve or any of his friends with disabilities it is this–he is an individual, so please do not expect him to align with any stereotypes or pre-conceivied judgements you have of how people with Down syndrome should be. He is Steve and if you want to know or learn more about him–ask him yourself :)

Steve: I want them to know that he is a genius.

How has your sibling surprised you?

David: My brother has surprised me the most by showing me that we are more alike than we ever knew. For so many years, we seemed polar opposites. He had lighter features, I had darker features. He was very animated, I was more laid-back. He appeared unafraid to jump into the heart of the action, I preferred to lay back and observe. He loved to walk around the house singing and dancing, I couldn’t be caught dead in a musical. As the years have passed, however, it has surprised me how much we truly are alike. We both are secretly perfectionists, which contribute to both our strong work ethic, but also our inability to always accept criticism or ask for help. We are both curious, always seeking out more knowledge (both meaningful and useless) about sports, music, tv, movies, history, and politics. We both love being part of the same communities: the disability community, the PALS community, the Glenallan Elementary School community (where I teach 4th grade and Steve volunteers in the main office). The most surprising similarity that we share is in our thirst for independence. I always wanted to figure things out for myself and experience the world on my own terms. As much as everyone in my family wanted this for Steve, we were never sure it would ever happen or if Steve even wanted it. Since moving out of my parents house into an apartment with his friend Eli Lewis over 2 years ago, Steve has demonstrated that same need. He has shown bravery, flexibility, growth, and a very recognizable sense of independence. We are very similar–for better or for worse–but I (and hope he too) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Steve: I’m surprised that my brother gives good advice. Like “You’re gonna be awesome!”

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

David: One of the things I love most about Steve is his sense of loyalty. He is tenacious about those he loves and cares about. Whether it be his family, his friends, or his celebrity crushes (shoutout to Hilary Duff), Steve’s loyalty is unwavering; he welcomes, protects, and defends those who are most important to him to no end, even if it is to a fault sometimes. Another thing I love about Steve is his flexibility, something that has not come easy to him. Whether it be about the time of his lunch on vacations or his budding love for our dog Talulah, Steve has shown a rare ability to push himself outside his comfort zone to enhance his own life and the lives of others around him. If I had to pick one thing that I love about Steve–one thing above all the others–it would be that he is MY brother!

Steve: When he is acting crazy.

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Patrick and Kelly Givens

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What do you want the world to know about your sibling?

Patrick: I am Patrick Givens and my sister is Kelly Givens. My mom is helping me type all of the wonderful things you should know about my sister. I love going to Camp PALS and the best thing is my sister is a volunteer there. Kelly is sweet, nice and cute. When she is home from college, she always takes me to my favorite restaurant, Surf Taco. We love to go to Starbucks together and get lattes. I love when we are in her car and she plays my favorite Beck songs. We sing the songs together.

Kelly: Hey! I’m Kelly, and this is my older brother Patrick. The second someone meets Pat, they are greeted with open arms, a big smile, and an instant friendship. He is the happiest person I know, no matter what the day brings.   

How has your sibling surprised you?

Patrick: Kelly surprises me when I meet her at the airport when she flies home from college. She surprises me when she gives me presents, such as a really cool shirt from Nashville. She surprised me when she volunteered to be a Camp PALS Counselor. I kind of wish she could be my Counselor when I go to Camp PALS.

Kelly: Pat surprises my whole family, more often maybe than we’d like, with funny pranks ranging from me coming home from college to a creepy baby doll laying on my bed, to pretending he’s not home, then emerging from the basement saying “Robber! Stop right there!” He has an amazing sense of humor, and catches us off-guard almost daily. He really keeps us on our toes in the best way possible. 

What do you love most about your brother/sister?

Patrick: I love Kelly because she is the best sister. She is nice to me and hugs me. She always invites me to hang out with her friends. I love her because she is kind and pretty. Here are some pictures of us!  

Kelly: The thing I love most about Pat is that no matter how badly I mess up, no matter how many poor decisions I make, or how grouchy I am after a long day, he will always make me feel like I am loved and accepted through hugs, affirmation, and kind words that let me know that everything is going to be okay. 

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Sibling Spotlight Series: Ethan and Kyle Mullin

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What do you want the world to know about your brother?

Ethan: He is very handsome and the greatest and he is brilliant.

Kyle: My brother is one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, anyone that knows him will attest to this. He can make anyone in the room laugh at any moment, and he is always the life of the party. Ethan is also really kind, and is always reaching out to others to try to brighten their day. He plays basketball, video games, and is a swimmer. He is also very passionate about Philadelphia sports, and his favorite players are Claude Giroux, Carson Wentz, AND Joel Embiid.  

How has your sibling surprised you?

Ethan: He gives me hoagies and pizza sometimes. And he loves me.

Kyle: There is not one moment that stands out, because Ethan surprises me everyday. Whether it’s a new joke he’s learned, a new basketball trick shot, or all the lyrics to the newest Justin Bieber song, he continues to amaze me. Ethan is far more capable than people think, and he has not let down syndrome hold him back from being an amazing individual with astonishing skills.

What do you love most about your brother: 

Ethan: He is my bro.

Kyle: The thing I love the most about my brother is that he is my brother. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for my younger brother/best friend/partner in crime. Ethan has had such an impact on me throughout our growing up together that I am not sure where I would be without him by my side. We have so much fun together. We enjoy trips to the beach, sports games, rock band, and causing as much trouble as possible in our house together. He has helped teach me to love and treat everyone equal, and to always keep a positive attitude. My brother has also taught me many important skills, like how to hide a quesadilla in your pocket to hide it from your dad when he doesn’t want you to eat anymore food. Love ya E!

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