downsyndrome

Meet Sarah, Our New Social Media Intern!

We are excited to introduce Sarah Henry as our newest member of the PALS family. Sarah will be joining as our Social Media Intern, working with Emesha and Michelle to cultivate our community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and our blog. She is looking forward to engaging with you on our social media platforms and producing interesting content to keep the PALS magic alive all year long!

Feel free to introduce yourself or congratulate her at sarah_henry@palsprograms.org. Or comment or DM her on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Hi PALS Family,

My name is Sarah, and I am delighted to be the Social Media Intern for PALS Programs! 

I am a recent graduate of West Chester University with a degree in Psychology, though my true passion is videography. This May I married my best friend, Joe, and we are settling down in the Philadelphia area. 

I fell in love with PALS this summer at the Chicago and Philadelphia 1 Camps, where I volunteered as videographer. The opportunity to blend videography and media with my newfound enthusiasm for PALS was life changing. For me, the magic happened when I was filming the first Camper at arrival in Chicago. Being able to capture that joy as the Campers ran through the tunnel was enchanting, and I raced to my room to edit as soon as I could. 

Because of PALS, I grew personally and professionally, and I know PALS will continue to help me grow as the Social Media Intern. I am so grateful for the opportunity to interact with everyone through our social media platforms and produce exciting, new content for you to enjoy. Feel free to comment or message me any ideas you would like to see!

PALS love,

Sarah Henry

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Adventure Recap: Indianapolis

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to host an adventure with one of my best friends, who I met through PALS. My co-leader for the weekend was Andrea Corliss and I have known her for a year now. Let me tell you how amazing a simple Google search can be and change your life forever.  I started volunteering for PALS 3 years ago. Andrea and I agree it has been one of the most life changing things we have ever done. Attending Chicago and Columbus summer camps, and countless PALS Adventures I decided that I wanted to bring PALS to my home city of Indianapolis.

Andrea and I started brainstorming this Adventure at Camp PALS Columbus over the summer. We knew that we wanted to host an adventure over Halloween weekend since it had never been done before.  Months of planning went by and the weekend of Halloween came and Andrea and I found ourselves in Indianapolis about to lead our first PALS event together!  

Over the Halloween weekend we stayed in a gorgeous Victorian House in downtown Indianapolis. We planned a Halloween costume party, painted pumpkins, made Halloween cookies, attended an Indiana Pacers Basketball Game, had a cookout, and so much more! 

One of the most memorable things that happened over the weekend was when we attended the Pacers game. We bought our basketball tickets from a wonderful gentleman named Steve Minkis. During half-time Steve approached our group and told us that our tickets were upgraded to rows nine and ten! My camper Jack turned to me and ecstatically said, “I’ve never been this close to the court before!” I turned back to him just as ecstatic and said, “Neither have I!” Thanks to Steve and the Pacers, the whole PALS crew had a wonderful first time at an Indiana Pacers game! Time flies when you’re having fun and Sunday came with the sun shining. We had a cookout at the house before everyone departed.

I will never forget this experience as a co-leader with Andrea and I am so thrilled to add another feather in my hat for PALS memories. Luckily along with Scott Gerson, Andrea and I will be directing Camp PALS Chicago in the summer of 2016!

PALS Love,

Chandler and Andrea

Camper Spotlight: Velinda Ramsey

Name: Velinda Ramsey

Age:18 yrs old

Number of years at PALS: 4 yrs

What camps have you attended: Cabrini, Poconos  

What is your favorite PALS memory: The dances

What is something unique about you, that most people don’t know: I’m a cheerleader at my high school, the Blue Devils.

What is your biggest accomplishment:  Learning to tie my sneakers.

If you could have any job, what would it be: Doctor

Anything else you would like to share with the PALS community: I can’t wait until next year to go to Camp Pals Poconos and see my friends!

The Congratulations Project:  The Exley Family

This is our sweet little boy, Gavin. Gavin was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. Initially, my thoughts about people with Down Syndrome were extremely limited. I didn’t think he would ever live a fulfilling life. I was completely ignorant about Down syndrome. After all, Gavin was the first person I ever met with the condition. 

After receiving the diagnosis, we went to work immediately learning about what this would mean for him and for our family. We got plugged into our local Down syndrome association, began therapies, and seeing specialists. I think the most meaningful information we have gained has come from individuals who have Down syndrome themselves. Getting to know these beautiful people have tremendously impacted our ideas about how fulfilling Gavin’s life truly will be. It touched our hearts in an amazing way to have a personal, hand-written letter from our pen pal. He had some beautiful words of encouragement for our family. I hope that every family that is blessed with a child who has an extra chromosome is able to experience the heartfelt connection that PALS is building for people.

Taylor Exley

To learn more about The Congratulations Project, visit congratulationsproject.org

The Congratulations Project:  The Romero Family

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This week, we hear from the Romero Family:

“Shortly after our son Colt was born we discovered that he had been gifted with an extra chromosome.  The news changed nothing for us in our minds and hearts for our love of our precious baby.  We know that Colt is just as fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect creator as our other children so why would we feel any different?  God didn’t make a mistake when Colt was being “intricately woven” and “knitted together”.

Sadly though, “CONGRATULATIONS!” isn’t always the word you hear upon sharing news of this amazing blessing.

I cannot put into words what a wonderful gift it was to not only hear that word  but to receive a letter from one of the amazing campers at Camp PALS.

We were so touched by the letter and package that we received.  I truly look up to these individuals and look for any chance that I can to hear from and talk with others who also share that something extra special.

I am so grateful to Jenni and the rest of the staff and campers at Camp PALS for helping to spread the beauty and joy in this blessing to us parents!

You are doing a wonderful thing! Thank you for celebrating our son! Keep up the great work!

Sincerely, Kelsi Romero”

The Congratulations Project: The Mize Family

During the month of September, we are featuring families who have received letters as part of The Congratulations Project. We hope these stories will bring you joy and help spread the word as we search for a new sponsor. 

“First and foremost, we would like to thank the writer of the very inspiring letter we received, “Jeremy D”, for taking the time to share his story and his goals.  As parents, we are encouraged to see that our 7 week old son will also have goals, friends and faith.  Jeremy is surely a very remarkable young man and we are most grateful to have had him grace our lives. 

Next, we would like to say thank you for the very unexpected care package that accompanied the beautiful letter.  We were initially stunned by the generosity and thoughtfulness reflected in the care package yet the more we explored it’s content the more our emotions evolved into an enormous sense of relief.  Relief because, for the first time since our precious son’s birth we felt we had heard from someone who wasn’t showing love and support “despite the Down Syndrome” but instead you were celebrating our son, everything about him, Down Syndrome and all.  To know there is an entire community that understands how important that is and who welcomes our son with enthusiastically open arms means more to us, as his parents, than we could ever say in words.  

To quote my Husband’s response “I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”  For sending out that message of love and belonging, thank you. 

Sincerely and Gratefully, Evan and Necie Mize”

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The Congratulations Project: Update

Today, PALS Executive Director Jenni Newbury Ross shares an update on The Congratulations Project:

“Exactly one year ago, Camp PALS camper John Kellis and I walked into NBC studios for the filming of The Meredith Vieira Show. Together we shared about PALS and our work with the Congratulations Project. As many of you know, the Congratulations Project invites our campers to write letters to new parents of babies with Down syndrome. During this powerful segment, Meredith surprised John with a visit from Jonas and his mom, a family that had received John’s letter.  Additionally, PALS was surprised with a generous gift from Babies R Us - supplies for gift baskets to accompany the letters that we sent to these new families.

We are so grateful for this opportunity to share the Congratulations Project with the world. Since the show’s filming we have distributed almost 250 letters to new families! 

Now that the Babies R Us supplies have been utilized, we are looking for a new sponsor to help us share the powerful words of our campers with the newest members of the Down syndrome community. 

From the very start of this initiative our vision was to welcome and celebrate with parents who may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or uncertain of their future. Over the past few years, it has been our honor to be told that we’re doing just that. 

“Your package and letter was the first one we received after hearing our son’s diagnosis and it gave us such hope.”

“I am putting this in her baby book so when she gets older she can read it and see the picture of you.”

“It gave me so much hope and strength when I was still trying to figure out what DS would mean for our son…Thank you for giving me that first glimpse into what a great life he will have.”

“I feel like we’ve been on an Island this whole time and we just received a message in a bottle.”

We will be sharing more photos and stories around The Congratulations Project as we continue to try and spread our reach. If you have any ideas about a potential sponsor or partner for this project please let us know by emailing congratulations@palsprograms.org. “

–Jenni Newbury Ross, Executive Director, PALS Programs