What's the Deal with Awareness Walks?

DSAW hosts seven Down Syndrome Awareness Walks each year. These annual walks draw more than 7,000 walkers, volunteers, donors, sponsors, and partners across the State under one collective mission – to raise awareness and promote inclusion, diversity and acceptance of people with Down syndrome in our communities and in our lives. 

What is a Down Syndrome Awareness Walk?

Down Syndrome Awareness Walks raise awareness, acceptance, and access for individuals with Down syndrome across Wisconsin. For the past 21 years, the Annual Awareness Walks have been the key fundraising mechanism that allow us to enter and serve communities across the state to help individuals and families with special needs prove they are stronger than the obstacles they face. 

Why do we walk?

We walk to tell our stories. That our children are remarkably gifted, talented and beautiful creations. We walk because our sons and daughters battle every day for the same liberties that are so often taken for granted by our society. We walk to create new programs and services in under-served communities. We walk to tell our stories to the world. DSAW is 100% funded by private individuals and concerned corporate citizens and foundations who believe just as we do that with appropriate investment and just the right amount of supports, our loved ones can accomplish amazing things!


How many awareness walks are held in Wisconsin each year? 

DSAW hosts 7 Awareness Walks each year. The dates for the 2017 Walk are:

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How are funds from awareness walks used?

All proceeds from the Awareness Walks go towards DSAW's life-changing programs and services, including Parent's First Call, Medical Outreach, Fraternal Support & Programming, DSAW-Family Services (one-on-one support, Roadmap Sessions, and transition services), Educational Programming, Awareness Programming, Advocacy, and more.


Are there other activities at awareness walks?

Yes! Along with the walk itself, all of our walks plan exciting pre-walk festivities, contests, prizes, and delicious food. We call this our "family festival" -- the Awareness Walk is an amazing day to celebrate our friends with Down syndrome with your entire family!


Why should I form a team?

It’s the perfect way to celebrate your loved one with Down syndrome. This day, this walk, and this team are all for them!

You get to participate in a BIG Down Syndrome Awareness party. Trust us, you don’t want to miss it!

Your team can be as large or as small as you want. Your team can have 2 people, 200 people, or 2,000 people! Invite your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, church family, or rotary club to join in the fun. 

For our Milwaukee and La Crosse Walks, you don’t even have to be present to form a team! When you sign up as a "Virtual" Walker, you commit to run or walk in honor of your loved one with Down syndrome. Then, post photos of your walk/run on DSAW’s Facebook Page! Whether you’ve moved away from Wisconsin, will be on vacation, or want to support your loved one who lives in Wisconsin, our community extends far beyond our state’s borders. 

Your fundraising changes lives. Although fundraising is optional, the difference you make in the lives of more than 4,500 families across the state is tremendous. Whether you raise $10 or $10,000, YOU are making a difference for people with Down syndrome and their families in Wisconsin. Some teams choose to fundraise a LOT and compete for our top fundraising prizes (which are amazing, by the way), and some teams choose to fundraise just a little bit. Just remember, fundraising does not have to be scary! Most people are happy to give to a cause that is important to you and your family.

Why form a team? Because it takes a village to raise a child. When you invite someone to join your team, it’s one more way of saying “thank you” -- “thank you for supporting my loved one with Down syndrome!”


 
 

This blog post is sponsored by Erie Insurance.

Questions About Birth to Three

What is Birth to Three, and what is its purpose?

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Birth to Three is Wisconsin’s Early Intervention program. The concept of “early intervention” is quite simple. If a child with a developmental delay receives proper help early on, problems in the future may be minimized. A child, his/her family, and the educational system will benefit by the reduced need for long-term intervention throughout the child’s school years.

What kinds of things will my child with Down syndrome do in Birth to Three?

Your child will participate in a variety of activities planned by licensed therapists, teachers, and nurses. The setting for these activities -- which are designed to provide physical, occupational, and speech therapies as needed -- may include regularly scheduled home visits, play group activities, individual therapy at home, daycare or hospitals, or other combinations that work for your family. You child’s record will be kept confidential.

Will I have any say regarding my child’s participation in any of these therapies?

Absolutely! After eligibility is determined (and most children with Down syndrome usually qualify), the Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) is written with help from the parent(s) and services begin.

When should my child start Birth to Three Services?

Some families choose to enjoy their babies and adjust to life with a new little one before jumping in. Others choose to start therapy right away. Ideally, a baby would start therapies within the first 8 weeks of life if that works in your family schedule.

Is there an age limit to receiving Birth to Three services?

The age limit is newborn to three years. 

 

Types of Therapies

Pediatric Physical Therapy (PT) is the treatment of children with physical disabilities by a licensed professional physical therapist who is educated and trained in the diagnosis and treatment of children with physical disabilities. The goal of PT is to improve care and provide a treatment program to obtain or restore the highest level of independence and function in quality of movement, walking, strength and endurance, gross motors skills, posture, positioning for functional skills, coordination, and mobility for the child with the disability.

Pediatric Occupational Therapy (OT) is the treatment of children with physical, emotional, and/or intellectual disabilities from birth to 21 by a licensed occupational therapist educated in a variety of diagnoses and therapies for such children. The goal of OT is to help make learning possible by helping children develop the underlying skills that will lead to independence in personal, social, academic, and vocational activities. This includes remediation of difficulties the child may encounter with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) such as dressing, grooming, feeding, etc.

Pediatric Speech Therapy addresses the child’s complete communicative needs. This often begins with the development of non-verbal communicative skills such as attending to the speaker and the activity, taking turns, and making appropriate eye contact. It is designed to help with speech disorder, often referred to as articulation or phonological disorders - problems with the way sounds are made or how sounds are sequenced to form words; oral-motor problems resulting in difficulty producing speech sounds; and delays in feeding skills. A speech-language pathologist is a specialist in the normal development of human communication. The Certificate of Clinical Competency (CCC) assures you that a speech-language pathologist has been qualified to provide clinical services by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). 

 

For more helpful tips for new and expectant parents, check out the digital version of the Parent's First Call Magazine.

 

 
 

This blog post is sponsored by Dries Painting. Thank you for your support!

Meet a DSAW Leader: Rachel

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Reit, and I am the Programs and Communications Coordinator at DSAW. I work out of the state headquarters in West Allis. I started with DSAW in September 2016 as a Marketing and Communications intern, and I joined the staff in my new role in January of 2017! I graduated from Marquette University in May with a Master of Arts degree in Communication, and I have Bachelor’s degrees from Marquette in Communication Studies and Psychology.

I always have known that I want to spend my life helping others. It’s been my dream to work in the nonprofit sector, and I’m so thankful to be a part of the DSAW family! I spend most of my hours here working on planning events, marketing, and running the social media accounts for our five outstate chapters (Central-WI, Chippewa Valley, Green Bay, La Crosse, and Sheboygan). I also am working on outreach to areas of the state where there currently is no DSAW coverage. We hope to reach everyone in Wisconsin with our programs and services! I cherish the time I get to spend with the self-advocates, and I get overly excited to see cats and deer walk by my window. 

In addition to all of my beautiful friends with Down syndrome at work, my boyfriend’s older sister Sarah also has Down syndrome. She’s been making me laugh and supporting me for the last four years. She and all of my DSAW people encourage and inspire me every day. I am passionate about our mission, and I’m thrilled to be changing lives across the state of Wisconsin!

What do I do when I’m not at the office? I love hiking and camping, spending time with my family, reading, eating anything chocolate, having Disney sing-a-long sessions with my brother, and volunteering at my church.  

If you have questions, suggestions for events, or just want to say hi, feel free to email me at rachel@dsaw.org or give me a call at 414.327.3729 ext 104.

Top 9 Reasons to Volunteer

There's no doubt that volunteering makes a positive impact. Ever wondered about the full benefits? Learn more about the hidden benefits of volunteering:

1. Helping people makes you feel better

Positive psychologists have studied the feeling of happiness in great depth, and it has been found that acts of kindness benefit both parties. When you volunteer, you are giving without expecting to receive. What you'll see is that happiness is contagious! Volunteering will give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Seeing the joy your work brings to other people can warm your heart in an indescribable way. 

2. Give back where you're passion lies

Without the incentive of money, you know that you are volunteering because you truly care. This opportunity allows you to get involved in organizations that mean something to you. It will feel amazing to be making a difference in an area where there is a personal connection.

3. Change someone's life

There is truly nothing more rewarding than seeing your actions better someone else's life. Many of the organizations and programs that offer volunteering opportunities rely heavily on their volunteers. Without people actively choosing to give back to their communities, many programs and services could not run.

4. Hooray for resumés!

Whether you're looking to get a job or be accepted to your dream school, volunteer experience glows on your resumé. Being a wholesome person makes you automatically stand out next to any competition.

5. The learning experience

Volunteering can open you up to a world you might not be used to. Most volunteer positions do not require previous experience. You may walk away with a new perspective and unique set of skills. 

6. Make connections

Volunteering can be a wonderful way to meet people with common interests. It's also a great way to meet people who are different from you! Either way, the volunteer setting is perfect for making new connections.

7. Become part of a new community

We always hear people hype up volunteering by saying we should "give back to the community." It goes much deeper than that. Within the larger community as a whole there are smaller communities. Each volunteering opportunity gives you a window into a community and culture that you might not know a lot about. 

8. Insider info

Volunteers often get to see a different side of an organization that regular employees or members might not have access to. You'll get the inside scoop on how things are run - who knows, you may even wind up working there someday!

9. See the world 

Volunteering doesn't always have to be in your neighborhood. There are many volunteering opportunities that allow you to venture outside both your hometown and your comfort zone. Mixing traveling with volunteering can make for an incredibly unique and exciting experience. 

 

Volunteering is appreciated wherever you go! If you're interested in volunteering with DSAW, check out our summer opportunities:

 

Sources:

https://www.gviusa.com/blog/17-excellent-reasons-to-volunteer/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/teen-angst/201701/achieving-happiness-helping-others

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-third-age/201403/5-reasons-why-you-should-volunteer

http://www.positiveforce.com/12-reasons-people-volunteer/

Looking Back on June 2017

Milwaukee

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Milwaukee Brewers Family Outing
We had a GREAT time at our 14th Annual Milwaukee Brewers Family Outing on June 4th. We completely sold out our tickets again this year! We enjoyed a fun and delicious tailgate before watching the Brewers win. Thanks to everyone who joined us, especially to our DSAW-Chippewa Valley Chapter for traveling down to spend the day with us!

Supporting Positive Behavior in Children and Teens with Down Syndrome Seminar
DSAW partnered with the Down Syndrome Clinic at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin to bring Dr. David Stein to speak about behavior. Each participant received Dr. Stein's new book! Feedback was fabulous -- thanks to everyone who joined us!

iCan Shine Bike Camp
Participants of our annual iCan Shine Bike Camp had a blast learning to ride a two-wheeled bicycle independently!! Participants spent 90 minutes per day in sessions. Progress in just one week is amazing!! Congratulations to this year's graduates. 

Young Leaders Bootcamp
Self-Advocates joined us for a fun month of Young Leaders Bootcamp. This month's topic was Storytelling. Consider signing up for our FREE July Bootcamp on Acting (ages 12+).

Cooking with the Kiddos
We had a great time at Cooking with the Kiddos in June! This class is a great time of family bonding, plus a free meal... what could be better? This month we cooked up some delicious sliders. Join us next month.

Motor Skills Playgroup
Our BIGGEST group of families yet joined us for Motor Skills Playgroup at the State Office this month! This group is a fun chance for children to learn occupational therapy skills in a free environment, while parents enjoy coffee and each other's company. Consider joining us next month!

 

Young Leaders Academy
Self-Advocates joined us for Young Leaders Academy twice in June. Every class involves a respite activity such as kickball or yoga, and then ends with an hour of employment-readiness curriculum. Self-Advocates are invited to join our class anytime. Consider joining us in July!

Parent's Night Out
We had a great group of parents join us for Parent's Night Out at Club Paragon in Greenfield in June. Make sure to join us next month!

Family Movie Night
We had a blast watching Cars together at our June Family Movie Night. We brought sleeping bags abd enjoyed our movie outside, drive-in style! Join us in July for a Drive-In experience watching Madagascar!


Chippewa Valley

DSAW-Chippewa Valley took a trip down to Milwaukee to join us for our 14th Annual Brewers Family Outing on June 4th! We enjoyed delicious food, fun raffles, and a Brewers win!


Green Bay

DSAW-Green Bay hosted their monthly playgroup at the beginning of the month, and once again held the playdate at Optimist Park! Families had a great time. Join us in July!

 

We also hosted a fun Parent's Night Out at the end of June -- moms AND dads joined us! We had a great time getting to know one another, and have even planned Mom's and Dad's nights out for July! Stay tuned for more details. 

 

Finally, we hosted a Strider Bike Camp during the last week of June. Children ages 2-8 joined us to begin their journey towards independent bicycle-riding by learning how to ride a Strider bike. We had a blast!


KRW

DSAW-Kenosha, Racine and Walworth hosted a fun family event at Monkey Joe's on June 24th! We reserved the ENTIRE facility for our families with FREE entry. It was an awesome time! Join us next month for our DSAW-KRW Parent's Night Out.


La Crosse

June 24 was DSAW-COTH-GLA's Night at the La Crosse Loggers!  Our group sold 84 tickets in advance to receive $210.00 from the Logger Foundation.  The rain tried to ruin our fun but after a short delay the sun came out and the fans began to cheer.  Our own, Eliza Levendoski, strutted on the field to throw the first pitch.  Point, step and throw!  It was all smiles and laughter in the stands with our members enjoying baseball with old friends and making new friends.  During the 7th inning stretch the 2017 Awareness Walk Royalty, Sam Malin and Lila Dummer, proudly represented DSAW by accepting our fundraising check.  Thanks to all that attended!


Central WI (Wausau)

DSAW-Central WI (aka DSAW-Wausau) hosted a Parent's Night Out at Sconni's alehouse in June. Parents had a fun time getting to know one another and enjoying excellent food and drink! Join us next month for our pool party.


Preventing Summer Slide

We all look forward to summer vacation, but what happens when we let our brains take a break from school? Have you ever noticed your child struggling at the beginning of a new school year? It’s easy to forget what you’ve learned when you haven’t been actively using those skills. This is especially true for our friends with Down syndrome and other special needs. To help you, we've put together 9 ways to prevent summer slide.

1. Set Yourself Up For Success.

It’s important to keep up a routine throughout the summer months. Of course, your child won’t have the usual school work load, but you want them to still be engaged in learning. If practicing reading, math problems, or speech becomes a habit, their skills will show great improvement. Hopefully, these activities can also be something your child looks forward to. Ask your child keep a journal each day about all the things that they have learned. Writing is a great way to exercise the mind.

 

2. Make Reading a Priority

Reading is one of the most common areas of decreased skills from one school year to the next. Set goals with your child by making a list of books they would like to read over the summer. Research has been done on developing reading skills, and it has been shown that six is the magic number when it comes to creating a summer reading list (Scholastic). If you choose six books for your child that aren’t too heavy, but aren’t too light, this can prevent their abilities from slipping. Plan a fun trip to the library and let your child pick out books that spark their excitement!

 

3. Build a Support Network of Other Parents

Having a solid support group does wonders. Bounce ideas back and forth with other parents and make it a team effort. You can also plan group activities with other families! A great way to meet parents of children with special needs is at a DSAW's Parent's Night Out. They are held regularly across the state. 

 

4. Find Education Everyday.

Encourage learning in everyday life and motivate your child to practice their skills consistently. On days you don't have anything specific planned, there are still ways to help your child exercise their minds. If you think about it, education can be found in any situation. Even activities such as cooking can help your child learn. Cookbooks involve reading and math! Taking a summer road trip? Listening to an audiobook along the drive can be a fantastic way to incorporate learning.

 

5. Summer Camps

There are always a number of specialized camps available during the summer months. Camps specifically for children with special needs include:

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Lions Camp 

Shepherds College 

Easter Seals Camp 

Badger Camp 

iCan Shine Bike Camp 

Wisconsin Youth Leadership Forum 

DSAW Respite Day Camp 

 

6. Summer Programs

Your child's school or local public library can be a wonderful resource. They often have summer programs that your child can be apart of. Keep in mind, you can also petition to have Extended School Year Services (ESY) included in your child's IEP. Click here for a guide on ESY. 

 

7. Recreational Opportunities

Consider looking for recreational activities to keep your child's mind and body active. Physical activity takes a lot more brain power than one might expect. Consider checking out Special Olympics, Miracle League, and more! 

 

8. Supplemental Therapies

After a full school year of progress in PT, Speech or OT, nothing is more deflating than losing skills due to lack of therapies over the summer. If possible, enroll your child in supplemental summer therapy! DSAW-Fox Cities is offering speech, OT, and behavior therapy this summer, and DSAW-La Crosse is offering access to speech therapy. If summer therapy is cost prohibitive, consider applying for a DSAW Member Grant. We also recommend asking your current therapists for lists of activities that you can be doing over the summer.

 

9. Don't Forget About Behavior and Social Skills

It may be easier to stay home over the summer, but nothing will improve your child's behavior and social skills like exposure to new people and new experiences! Organize playdates (with typically-abled friends too!), visit new places, and always work on appropriate social behavior. Summer is a great time for experiential learning.

 

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Learning doesn’t have to go on summer vacation, and it definitely doesn’t have to be boring. There are many ways to make practicing educational skills fun for your child!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/developing-reading-skills/three-ways-to-prevent-summer-slide

https://www.cli.org/blog/5-tips-for-preventing-summer-slide-2/

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/education_futures/2016/06/9_tips_for_preventing_the_summer_slide.html

https://littlescholarsllc.wordpress.com/10-ways-to-prevent-summer-slide/

 

This blog post sponsored by Cardinal Capital Management

 
 

Looking Back on May 2017

Milwaukee

Young Leaders Bootcamp
Self-Advocates joined us for a fun month of Young Leaders Bootcamp. This month's topic was Storytelling. Consider signing up for our FREE June Bootcamp on Public Speaking.

 

Cooking with the Kiddos
We had a great time at Cooking with the Kiddos in May! This class is a great time of family bonding, plus a free meal... what could be better? This month we cooked up some delicious sliders. Join us next month.

Motor Skills Playgroup
Families joined us for Motor Skills Playgroup at the State Office this month! This group is a fun chance for children to learn occupational therapy skills in a free environment, while parents enjoy coffee and each other's company. Consider joining us next month!

Young Leaders Academy
Self-Advocates joined us for Young Leaders Academy twice in May. Every class involves a respite activity such as kickball or yoga, and then ends with an hour of employment-readiness curriculum. Self-Advocates are invited to join our class anytime. Consider joining us in June!

Parent's Night Out: ComedySportz
We had more than 50 parents join us for a special Parent's Night Out featuring ComedySportz. We laughed until we cried and enjoyed fantastic company. Make sure to join us next month!

Family Movie Night
We had a blast watching Minion Movie together at our May Family Movie Night. We brought sleeping bags and snuggled in for this family-favorite. Join us in June for a Drive-In experience watching Cars!

Family Activity Day
We had a great time painting pottery at Family Activity Day. We had two new families join us! Thanks to everyone who came out for this fun event.


Green Bay

DSAW-Green Bay hosted their monthly playgroup at the beginning of the month, but celebrated the warm weather by moving the group outdoors to Optimist Park! Families had a great time. Join us in June for another go at Optimist Park!

We also hosted a Family Outing at the NEW Zoo on May 28th. We had a blast spending time together and looking at all the animals!


KRW

DSAW-Kenosha, Racine and Walworth hosted a Pottery Painting Party in May. We met at Mrs. Myers' Reading Room in Racine for a fun afternoon of painting pottery and enjoying one another's company. Thanks to Mrs. Myers' Reading Room for hosting us! Make sure to join us next month for our Monkey Joe's event!

 


La Crosse

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What a fun Parent's Night Out at Branches Winery in Westby!  A fun group of us braved the cold and rainy night. We are all bonded by our love for someone with Down Syndrome, but we become friends by learning more about each other at events like these where we can talk without the interruption of children. Cheers to a fun night and great company! Instead of a Parent's Night Out in June, we're hosting a Family Night at the La Crosse Loggers Game.    

We also hosted our monthly Music Group. Consider joining us for this FREE group in June! 
 


Sheboygan

DSAW-Sheboygan hosted a Family Bowling Event in May! Families had a great time enjoying free bowling complimentary of the chapter, as well as meeting new friends. 

Join us for our June Parent's Night Out!


Central WI (Wausau)

DSAW-Central WI (aka DSAW-Wausau) hosted a Mom's Coffee Date at the beginning of the month. The event was very well attended, and moms ended up sticking around talking and getting to know one another for much of the afternoon.

The chapter also had a table at the groundbreaking for the new JoJo's Jungle playground. We had a great time celebrating this accomplishment and helping to spread the word about our new chapter.

Creative Strategies for Walk Fundraising

By Andrea Finney, DSAW-La Crosse Walk Raffle Captain & Mom to Levi

Asking for help is a very difficult thing for me to do. I don’t like to ask for money, I don’t like to ask for people to pitch in, I even feel guilty about asking a babysitter to come over – and I am paying them! All ridiculous, I know… So when it comes to fundraising, I struggle. It is out of my comfort zone, but it’s something that needs to be done for our group to thrive. This year I am really putting our family out there to make a difference. We don’t really have a good support system in the way of asking family and friends for financial support, so we are thinking out of the box. How can I contribute to the group and how can I make a difference for my son and every other person in our community with Down Syndrome?

The words are hard for me, but I sure can put together an email! I made the decision that I wanted to be an integral part of putting together the raffle for the walk. This is one way that I can help to raise money. I can research, and I can send out tons of emails talking about our kids and asking for support in that way. In researching companies that make donations, other groups raffle strategies, I see many other opportunities for fundraising. When I narrowed that down to opportunities that are available LOCALLY, there really are a lot of options available.

I started thinking about team fundraising around World Down Syndrome Day. I work for a company that is pretty involved with community, so I thought I would start here. I spoke with our Human Resource department and I was able to get an approval for a special “Jean’s Day,” with the proceeds going to DSAW.  This day raised close to $350 on behalf of Levi’s Top Guns.

The fundraiser we were able to do that really got the kids involved was a carwash. My husband manages the Auto Value in West Salem, so this made sense to me. He is a car guy, his business sells car care products, and there is a steady stream of customers in and out of their parking lot. His store sponsored the supplies needed, I supplied the kids, and we raised almost $400 for our team. This was an event that Levi was able to participate in, so for me, that was a huge win. He is just 6 years old, but HE is raising money for HIS team! It was a great day, a great experience for him, and something we will continue to do in future years for our walk team fundraising.

Another opportunity we had with Auto Value was networking through the stores. This is a company with many locations in our area. So while a large sponsorship was not feasible for his store budget, he made the connections with other store managers. Everyone pitched in a little which was manageable for their charitable giving budgets, but it made a huge impact for an overall donation. He was able to collect $500 from 5 stores working together.

There are a lot of other opportunities that we are hoping to participate in over the months leading to the walk as well. As a group, there is a Brat Barn through Festival Foods, a “Save Ferris Day” at the Breakfast Club, and a ride through the Beer By Bike Brigade, to name a few. There are also opportunities through local restaurants to have a percentage of sales donated – Culver’s, Dairy Queen, and Arby’s are a few examples – minimal effort, major impact to our loved ones. It just takes a phone call to get the wheels in motion, and maybe a little manpower for a few hours on our parts. There are companies locally that “round up” for charities, there are chicken Q’s, or there are just utilizing your personal contacts. Utilizing them for monetary donations, or for product donations to be used for our raffle. Think of who you know… do you or someone you know do personal sales? Someone that manages or has connections at a local business? Someone that offers a service? These are all things that can bring in funding to sustain our chapter from year to year by way of the walk raffle.

This group has been such an important part of my family’s lives. The resources we have because of it, and the people we have met along the way. I want this to be available to our family for many years to come, and I want Levi and his friends to have endless opportunities because of the work this group does. To make that happen, we have to work at it. I am excited to be a part of this and make things happen and I look forward to finding new opportunities to make a difference!

Meet a DSAW Leader: Angel

Hi everyone! My name is Angel Benrud.  I am a member of DSAW’S  Lacrosse Chapter. I am married with four children, my oldest daughter Haley (22) is how I got involved with our local Down Syndrome group. When Haley was born in 1995 there were not a lot of resources in our area, and it was hard to find and meet others with Down Syndrome. Through the birth to three program I met 2 other families with a child similar in age as Haley, which provided us parents a chance to talk and trade information. I hope by continuing to be a part of the local DSAW chapter that Haley and I can pave the way for others. I want parents of youngsters to know that there are people here if they need help finding resources, answering questions or just talking!

I have been a part of our Down Syndrome Awareness Walk Committee for 12 years, and have been chair or co-chair for the last 4 years. My title right now is Walk Co-chair, although I do a little of everything. If there is something that needs to be done and I can do it, I will!  

My favorite part of being a part on the Walk Committee is taking a minute in the middle of walk to just stop look around and see all the people that come, donate and support. It's powerful knowing that I am making a difference!

 

Meet a DSAW Leader: Jenny

Hi! I am Jenny Levendoski, a member of DSAW-COTH-Greater La Crosse Area.  I attended my first Down Syndrome Awareness Walk (formally Steppin Up for Down Syndrome) in 2010.  It was the day I was released from the hospital, a week after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Eliza.  She was unable to attend that first party due to her extended hospital stay but has more than made up for it now.  We are usually the first to show up and the very last to leave the party. 

I do not have an official title within our chapter, but I can say I do a little bit of everything. I have helped with the Down Syndrome Awareness Walk, organized social events, and organized speaker events. My current focus in on member engagement and collaborating with our amazing local non-profits.  Through these experiences, I met a wonderful group of individuals that I probably never would have met if we were not on this DS journey together.  Not only did these people become my friends, but also an amazing source of information. 

My dream for Eliza and her friends is for them to be happy, healthy, independent, and productive/included members of society. This is why I am an active member of DSAW-COTH-GLA! Not only do I believe individuals with disabilities should have the same opportunities as those without, but they should be fully included. 

Looking Back on April 2017

Parent's First Call

On April 1st, we hosted 13 incredible parents for a Parent's First Call training at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. They spent the entire day learning how to be Support Parents to new and expectant parents, and are ready to pay it forward through friendship, advice, and a listening ear. These parents will change the world. 

A special thank you to Robin Mathea and Parent to Parent of Wisconsin for their continued partnership in making this program a success. And thank you to Emily Moe, geneticist from Children's Hospital and member of the DSAW Medical Outreach Committee, for leading us through the Prenatal Diagnosis section of our training.

We are very excited to see the incredible results of our Parent's First Call Program since its "official" launch this spring. Over the last year, DSAW has received an average of two referrals per month. In April, due to the amazing support of the community and our billboard in Milwaukee, we were contacted by 8 new/expectant parents looking for support!!

Finally, we are hoping to enable more members to "give back" to new and expectant parents through a book drive. If you have gently used baby books that you would like to donate to a new family, please mail them to the DSAW office (11709 W Cleveland Ave, Suite 2, West Allis, WI 53227). You are welcome to write encouraging and hopeful notes in the books.


Milwaukee

Young Leaders Bootcamp
Self-Advocates joined us for a fun month of Young Leaders Bootcamp. This month's topic was planting and gardening. We planted food and other plants in the beds behind the DSAW Office. We'll be tending these beds all summer, and will (hopefully!) be eating the harvest this fall. Consider signing up for our FREE May Bootcamp on Storytelling.

Cooking with the Kiddos
We had a great time at Cooking with the Kiddos in April! This class is a great time of family bonding, plus a free meal... what could be better? This month we cooked up some delicious sliders. Join us next month.

Motor Skills Playgroup
Three new families joined us for Motor Skills Playgroup at the State Office this month! This group is a fun chance for children to learn occupational therapy skills in a free environment, while parents enjoy coffee and each other's company. Consider joining us next month!

Young Leaders Academy
Self-Advocates joined us for Young Leaders Academy twice in April. Every class involves a respite activity such as kickball or yoga, and then ends with an hour of employment-readiness curriculum. Self-Advocates are invited to join our class anytime. Consider joining us in May!

Family Zumba
We had an AMAZING time at Zumba in April. We have a volunteer Zumba instructor who makes the class fun for individuals of all ages and ability levels. Join us in May!

Family Activity Day
We had a great time painting pottery at Family Activity Day. We had two new families join us! Consider signing up for May's Family Activity Day.

Family Movie Night
We had a blast watching Toy Story together at our April Family Movie Night. We brought sleeping bags and snuggled in for this family-favorite. Join us in May for Minion Movie!

Club DSAW
Self-Advocates had a great time at Club DSAW Mexican Fiesta this month! We had a taco bar, virgin margaritas, Mexican pastries, and a make-your-own Guacamole station. Join us the last Saturday in May for a Club DSAW nature day!


Chippewa Valley

DSAW-Chippewa Valley hosted a Family Bowling Event on April 23rd. More than 50 people attended!! We had a great time bowling, eating pizza, and hanging out with other area families.


Green Bay

DSAW-Green Bay hosted their monthly playgroup at Kidz Town at the beginning of the month. Families had a great time enjoying the Kidz Town amenities and each other's company.

We also hosted our monthly Mom's Night Out at Legends in Howard. 5 moms attended and 2 were new to Mom's Night Out. We enjoyed a fun night of laughter and conversation!


La Crosse

On April 15, Tai Hanna (Sally Davis, mom), Haley Hellerud (Megan Hellerud, sister), Jenny Levendoski (volunteer) and Jamie Frausto (volunteer) saw the movie Beauty and the Beast at Marcus Theaters in La Crosse.  After getting our soda and snacks, the group was amazed to find the recliner seating.  Haley and the gang loved the chairs.  After the movie, we walked to Pizza Hut for pizza.  We were joined by our friend, Aaron Hulse (Teresa Hulse, mom).  The Self-Advocates sat in one area of the restaurant, while the parents and caregivers were banished to another part of the restaurant.  After the event Haley said, "My favorite part was the movie!  It was a good movie.  I liked hanging out with the boys and would like to do that again!"  If you have a great idea for a Self Advocate Outing or would like to be on the Self Advocate Committee contact Morgan Brzank at morganbrzank@gmail.com.      

We also hosted our monthly Music Group. Consider joining us for this FREE group in May! 
 


Sheboygan

DSAW-Sheboygan hosted a Parent's Night Out on April 21st at the Green Dragon. 7 parents with kids of all ages attended and had a great time getting to know one another. Thank you to everyone who came!

Join us for a Family Bowling Event on May 20!


Wausau

DSAW-Wausau hosted an Easter Egg Hunt & Brunch on April 8th. Thank you to the Raschka Family for hosting us on your beautiful farm! More than 10 families attended this new event. 

Join us next month for a Mom's Coffee Date on May 4th. Meet other area moms and discuss upcoming events.

Looking Back on March 2017

The Power of Collaboration

This month, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day, we were proud to host and be part of events around the state that raised awareness and acceptance of our amazing friends with Down syndrome.

WIDSAC Event
As part of the World Down Syndrome Day Celebration, DSAW and the other members of the Wisconsin Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition hosted a roundtable discussion on able accounts, policy, and employment initiatives at the GE Research Park Auditorium. Speakers included Wisconsin State Rep. John Macco, NDSS President Sara Weir, Arc Wisconsin State Director Lisa Pugh, and other professionals. There were also many Self-Advocate representatives from DSAW! A special thank you to Wisconsin Upside Down, MADSS, GE, and Jennifer Janowski for coordinating this wonderful event and discussion.

Advocacy Wine Dinner
In addition, Wisconsin Upside Down hosted a Wine Dinner with representatives from DSAW and MADSS present in support of our collective advocacy efforts. Sara Weir from the National Down Syndrome Society was present as the event's special guest. We are very inspired and feel ready to take on the future after this amazing event.

Medical Professional Training
DSAW trained more than 80 future medical professionals at Marquette and Medical College of Wisconsin at the end of March in partnership with the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Down Syndrome Clinic. Students were given up-to-date information on Down syndrome and learned about delivering a fair and compassionate Down syndrome diagnosis.

Statewide Peer Sensitivity Trainings
DSAW continued to host Peer Sensitivity Trainings around the state this month, especially surrounding World Down Syndrome Day. Already this year, more than 200 students have been trained on what Down syndrome is, what it isn't, and how to be a good friend to someone with Down syndrome. 

 

And of course, World Down Syndrome Day Celebrations!!
The DSAW family certainly knows how to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day in style! Members across the state rocked their crazy socks, handed out awareness cards, celebrated at local DSAW events, and raised funds in honor of their loved ones. We loved partying with you all month long!! Here are a few pictures of our favorite socks from 3-21:

 

 

 

 

 

Ben's Cycle Fundraiser
Thank you to our friends at Ben's Cycle for hosting the 2nd Annual Indoor Century Ride to raise money for DSAW. The day raised more than $3,000 to support DSAW's programs and services around the state. You all amaze us with your dedication and amazing athletic talents!!

 


Fox Cities

In addition to the monthly Mom's Night Out, DSAW-Fox Cities co-hosted a KITE Conference with SOAR and WisconSibs. This was a great chance to learn about disability-related topics from various presenters, including many DSAW staff.

DSAW-Fox Cities also hosted their annual World Down Syndrome Day event at Monkey Joe's. Families had an amazing time!

In the spirit of raising awareness, DSAW-Fox Cities also launched their awareness billboard campaign. See the photo below.


Green Bay

DSAW-Green Bay had a busy month of programming in March. They hosted their monthly Kidz Town playgroup on the first Saturday of the month which was well-attended by area families.

DSAW-Green Bay also participated in two movie events this month. One event, hosted by Journey Community Church, was a showing of 'Where Hope Grows' for adults, and included free childcare. The event was a fundraiser for DSAW-Green Bay and was a great success!

The other movie event was our World Down Syndrome Day event on Saturday, March 16th. We saw 'Sing' at De Pere Cinema and had a great time celebrating World Down Syndrome Day.

We also hosted the annual Live Like Ava event on Friday, March 24th at Green Bay Fusion. This was a great evening of honoring the life of Ava Moody while enjoying the company of other families.

Our month wrapped up with our monthly Mom's Night Out at 1919 Kitchen & Tap. We had a lot to discuss and be thankful for after a busy month!


Kenosha, Racine and Walworth

DSAW-KRW hosted its first Parent's Night Out at the beginning of the month. We had a great turnout and are excited for many more DSAW-KRW events to come in 2017! Click here to see our other upcoming programs and events.


La Crosse

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DSAW-COTH-GLA hosted its annual World Down Syndrome Day Event at the Onalaska Omni Center on Sunday, March 19th. Families enjoyed snacks, games, crafts, activities, and custom World Down Syndrome Day t-shirts and posters! 

 

We also hosted a Parent's Night Out. On March 25, a fun-spirited group of parents came together for the first Parents Night Out of 2017 at Java Vino in La Crosse.  This eclectic group included Jenny Levendoski and Jamie Frausto (parents of Eliza) , Andrea and Jerry Finney (parents of Levi), Libby and TJ Teegan (parents of Jack), Diane Falter (parent of Cecilia) , and Alicia Sykes (parent of Quincy).  It was great to come together to talk about our Heroes with Down syndrome.  We all came from different backgrounds.  We may never have crossed paths if we didn't have a loved one with Down syndrome.  People with DS are more alike than different, so are the parents/ caregivers of people with DS.  We all love someone with Down syndrome.  We all want to see people with Down syndrome be loved and accepted.  We all need to work together to benefit our Heroes with Down syndrome.  See you at the next event.  


Sheboygan

DSAW-Sheboygan and Surrounding Counties hosted an AWESOME World Down Syndrome Day Celebration at Blue Harbor Resort Indoor Waterpark. More than 80 people joined us for this fun event. Check out DSAW-Sheboygan's other upcoming events here!


Wausau

Our Wausau chapter hosted a beautiful World Down Syndrome Day event this month at Petersen Barn. The children were able to pet horses and parents got a chance to connect and meet other members of our budding chapter. We even had a photographer at the event to capture the memories! Take a look at our photo gallery.

We were also fortunate to get some press this month in honor of World Down Syndrome Day. Laurel and Jeremiah, members of our Wausau chapter, did a radio interview with Oliver Burrows from 1230WXCO to talk about World Down Syndrome Day - you better believe that they were rockin' their crazy socks, too! We also received coverage on the WSAW-7 TV News.


Milwaukee

DSAW-Greater Milwaukee hosted its annual World Down Syndrome Day Event at Country Springs Waterpark on March 20th. More than 160 people joined us and had a blast!

Young Leaders Bootcamp
Self-Advocates joined us for a fun month of Young Leaders Bootcamp as we went through the PeopleSmart Curriculum. We worked on relationships and interpersonal skills. Consider signing up for our FREE April Bootcamp on Planting & Gardening.

Cooking with the Kiddos
We had a great time at Cooking with the Kiddos in March! This class is a great time of family bonding, plus a free meal... what could be better? Join us next month.

Young Leaders Academy
Self-Advocates joined us for Young Leaders Academy twice in March. Every class involves a respite activity such as kickball or yoga, and then ends with an hour of employment-readiness curriculum. Self-Advocates are invited to join our class anytime. Consider joining us in April!

Tween Club
Tweens had a great time at March's Tween Club. We played games, made delicious treats like puppy chow, and had lots of fun playing the Wii! Many of our parents got to attend Parent's Night Out while their children had a night of fun. There will be no Tween Club in April due to Easter weekend, but join us in May!

Parent's Night Out
Parents hung out at Mad Dog Saloon for March's Parent's Night Out. As always, we had an amazing time. There will be no Parent's Night Out in April due to Easter weekend, but join us in May for a very special Comedy Sportz Parent's Night Out in partnership with the Greater Milwaukee DADS Group! Click here to purchase tickets.

Family Zumba
We had an AMAZING time at Zumba in March. We have a volunteer Zumba instructor who makes the class fun for individuals of all ages and ability levels. Join us in April!

Family Movie Night
We had a blast watching Finding Dory together at our March Family Movie Night. We brought sleeping bags and snuggled in for this family-favorite. Join us in April for Toy Story!

Club DSAW
Self-Advocates had a great time painting pottery with our friends from La Terraza at our March Club DSAW! Join us the last Saturday in April for our Club DSAW Mexican Fiesta.


Meet a DSAW Leader: Miriam

Hi! I’m Miriam Marting, a board member on DSAW-Wausau, which has recently become active. I first became involved in the Down Syndrome community when my daughter Laurel was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after her birth in 2006. Laurel is blessed to have three older brothers ages 20, 18, and 12. Laurel likes to go swimming, spend time with her family, eat popcorn, and play outdoors.

When Laurel was born, we had a Down Syndrome support network where we lived in Indiana, so when we moved to Wausau in 2011, we were disappointed that there was no Down Syndrome network in Wausau. I had first heard about DSAW when I was living in Indiana in 2010. Having previously lived in the Fox Cities, we had heard that Rachel Coleman, the producer and personality behind Signing Times, was featured at DSAW-Fox Cities Down Syndrome Awareness Walk. We were excited to meet Rachel because of the role she had played in Laurel’s development.

It is rewarding to connect families and help them understand available resources as well as the joys of having a child with Down syndrome. I have a passion for people, networking, and connecting with others to make a difference.