07 September 2013

The 21st Chromosome

(I'm at the beach with three friends from second grade, including Brenda King, who wrote today's guest blog. I love the three stories and that there's no way it's a coincidence that Brenda saw all three within the space of a week- Melinda) 

When Melinda asked me to guest blog for Causes and Effects, I wondered what and how I would chose my charity.  I’ve also been wondering what to do with my spare time.  You see, until my youngest son, Josh, graduated from high school in June, he was heavily involved in baseball.  For the last 8 years, I cannot count the hours I spent as chauffeur, cheerleader, travel agent, organizer and volunteer for fund raisers for his various baseball teams.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  But graduation has come and gone and he’s started college.  Now what? My charity work has been on hold for a while – so now’s the time to get back in the game.  But what and how would I chose my charity?  At 3 AM, I awoke with such clarity to the question posed for both things. Three people are responsible for that clarity – Kevin, Abbie, and Bobby.
Josh’s high school team was coached by Austin, a teacher at the school who has always stressed citizenship through charity work with kids with disabilities through the Miracle League and Field of Dreams programs in Raleigh. He also invited a boy named Kevin to join the team as manager responsible for getting game balls to the umpire, rallying the Maniacs at game time, flirting with the girls when the game was boring and inspiring the team.  Kevin has Down Syndrome and is mainstreamed into the public school.  At Senior Awards Night, Kevin was awarded the Wildcat Award for school spirit.  The Senior Class sprung to their feet for a standing ovation despite requests to hold the applause – the one time it was okay to ignore the principal.  The familiar smile on Kevin’s face as he accepted the award brought tears to the eyes of the baseball moms.
Toward the end of the baseball season, I met the coach’s mom and his sister, Abbie, who traveled three hours to support the team on several occasions.  Abbie is the coach’s twin sister and it was clear that they had that twin bond.  She talked about how much she loved playing t-ball with Austin when they were kids.  Did I mention that Abbie also rocks the extra 21st chromosome?  Abbie has a job and was quite articulate.  It was her smile and the affection she had for her brother that touched me.  It also made me a bit homesick for my family in Pennsylvania.
My Uncle Bobby, my mom’s youngest sibling, is the sweetest man I know.  At 57 years old, he melts your heart with his hugs, kisses and smile.  Bobby loves to bowl and dance and he has some really good moves.  His health has been a concern, he is unemployed and he lives with his sister- so obviously, I’m not helping him write his online dating profile.  Oh, did I mention that Bobby also rocks the extra 21?  I got to spend a few hours with Bobby on a recent visit to see the family.  Had Josh’s team advanced in the state playoffs I would have missed the trip and the time spent with Uncle Bobby.
In less than 1 week, I had interacted with Kevin, Abbie and Bobby, all with Down Syndrome and each a loving, caring and inspiring person.  So today’s donation goes to Special Olympics in their honor.  Special Olympics provides “sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” according to its website.  Through Special Olympics, the athletes “develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families.”
I think I have found the charity that I would like to learn more about and see how I can get involved  and put to good use some spare time and skills learned along the way.  Thank you Kevin, Abbie and Bobby for showing me the way!

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