This World Down Syndrome Day we want to spotlight some of our amazing patients and their families. Every March 21, the world comes together to celebrate and participate in activities and events to raise awareness about Down syndrome.
This year, the World Down Syndrome Organization’s call to action is “leave no one behind.” In honor of this, we reached out to two families to shed light on their little ones, hear their advice for other families, and see how they plan to celebrate this special day.
Kallan, animal lover and cuddle bug
Each day starts like than any other for this fun-loving two-year-old. After waking up and getting dressed for the busy day ahead, Kallan is usually itching to get to his daily activities. Hanna, Kallan’s mom and certified nursing assistant (CNA), accompanies him all over Denver for what seems like a marathon of events and activities.
First, Kallan has a morning playdate with a special visitor – Grandma. After their quality time together, Kallan and Hanna head to music class where they sing, dance and play instruments. Once the countless laughs and smiles come to an end, they’re back home for a snack and nap.
Kallan is never short on one thing: energy. Nap time is typically followed by a therapy session and maybe even a swim lesson. When he finally returns home after a busy day of playing and learning, his favorite thing to do is read “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?”to his favorite pup, Darla.
“Kallan wants to be wherever the pets are,” said Hanna. “We have two dogs and one kitten, and he loves each of them dearly.” Other than playing fetch with the dogs, Kallan can’t get enough time sitting next to and leaning against Darla’s wall of fur while reading a book.
“He is such a love bug!” said Megan Merrick, Clinical Lead- Visits. “If he’s not cuddled up with his dogs, then he’s sure to be playing with them. Anytime he’s with an animal, he’s smiling.”
Hanna is excited to celebrate Kallan’s second World Down Syndrome Day this year by putting the family in crazy socks and attending the celebrations that take place in downtown Denver. “I feel extremely fortunate to have a supportive community around me,” said Hanna. “It makes me even more hopeful for his bright future.”
When it comes to advice to other parents, Hanna’s is simple. “Just enjoy it!” she said. “There are twice as many laughs and smiles as there are trials. Relish the time you have with your child and parent the best way you know how.”
Gavin, Mr. Personality and horseback rider
Charisma might as well be Gavin’s middle name. He has more spunk and enthusiasm than most seven-year-olds according to his mom, Tammy.
“Gavin is a shining star that sparkles in any room,” said Tammy. “He isn’t one to let life pass him by without being part of his favorite activities.” Amid music lessons, swim school, and therapy, Gavin’s favorite place to showcase his incredible personality is while horseback riding.
Riding serves as a form of speech therapy for Gavin. He learns commands for the horses and practices them as he learns to ride. He’s the best and most genuine version of himself when he rides horses, spreading joy to everyone at the facility.
“When he goes to horse camp, he’s like a celebrity,” said Tammy. “Everyone knows him – from trainers and staff to the owners. When he shows up, Gavin’s energy and enthusiasm spread quickly – making his positive attitude contagious.”
His mom and the horse-riding team aren’t the only ones who rave about Gavin’s infectious charm. “Gavin is an amazing and caring young man,” said Megan Merrick, Clinical Lead- Visits. “He blows me away with his positive outlook on life and his ability to make just about anyone smile.”
In addition to unconditional love, Gavin has also shown his mom patience she never thought existed. “He has taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined,” said Tammy. “I became a nurse before having Gavin and now that I get to be his relative caregiver as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), these have been the best years imaginable.”
As a CNA, Tammy is able to be the primary caregiver for her son, allowing them more time together and the opportunity to learn lessons and grow as a family. And, she’s one proud mom. “I love being with him and am so proud he’s my son. Life together is really what you make it.”
The two will be spending today together, making sure to fill it with fun activities. Tammy plans to celebrate Down syndrome awareness all year long by volunteering at the medical clinic tent for the Denver Down Syndrome Awareness Walk this September and remain actively involved with the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association.