December 2016
New & Expectant Parents
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Nominate Someone for an MDSC Award Today 

Don't miss the opportunity to nominate someone special for an MDSC annual award. The winners will be announced on March 25 at our 33rd Annual Conference,  where they will be publicly recognized. 

The awards include: 
  • Outstanding Educator Award for an educator in
    Massachusetts who has significantly contributed to ensuring that students with Down syndrome are given every opportunity to maximize their full potential 
  • Media Award for a person or company who exemplifies the MDSC's mission to disseminate up-to-date information about Down syndrome 
  • Allen C. Crocker Award of Excellence, the highest award offered by the MDSC, for the person who most advances the Down syndrome movement.
  • Employer Award  for a person or company who recognizes what p eople with Down syndrome can bring to the workforce and act as role models for other employers to emulate.
Email for more information and to make a nomination. 
Seeking Nominations for Board of Directors

Do you know an individual who can help govern the MDSC in the areas of policy, fundraising, financial oversight and strategic planning? Nominate them for our Board of Directors by the Feb. 1 deadline.

We are looking for committed individuals willing to serve a 3-year term. The commitment of MDSC Board Members has been the catalyst to the legacy of the MDSC's 30 years. While all nominations are welcomed, we are particularly looking for the following:
** a public relations, c ommunications or marketing background with leadership experience in the corporate sector.
**corporate accounting or finance expertise 
** executive leadership and business skills
** contacts in the community who can bring those connections to the board, whether financial or other. 
Email for more information and to make a nomination. 
Corporate Contributors Support MDSC Mission

Corning Inc. Foundation

Our AIM: Teen & Young Adult Program got a huge boost from the   Corning Incorporated Foundation . Lydia Kenton Walsh (front) presented the MDSC with a $5,000 check at our MDSC offices. The MDSC was represented by SAAC member John Dunleavy, Crocker Intern Mike Avakian and Executive Director Maureen Gallagher. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with the wonderful folks at Corning for a long time to come!

Dunkin' Donuts

At  Dunkin' Brands World Headquarters in Canton last month, local Dunkin' Donuts franchisees and the Northeast Chapter of the  The Joy In Childhood Foundation awarded $136,349 in grants to nine local, Massachusetts-based non-profit organizations to support kids. 
The MDSC is proud to be a recipient of a $10,000 grant! The grant will support MDSC's Hospital Visitation program (part of our Parents First Call Program) to provide care packages to our children and families who experience a long/extended hospital stay.
Thank you to  Dunkin' Donuts for their steadfast support of the MDSC and our mission!

The MDSC has been very successful in obtaining grants and corporate donations through our members' work at various companies who have community giving programs. You can help the MDSC connect to your employer, too. If you would like to help us raise awareness within your company about the many wonderful programs and services of the MDSC, please contact Reaghan Bik at
Medical Outreach
The MDSC's Melissa Reilly and Matthew Cullen were taking their message of respect, empowerment, and self determination to the medical establishment last month!

Melissa and Matthew presented to  Brandeis University's Genetic Counseling Program, sharing about their lives and taking questions.
Then, through the Operation House Call Program, Matthew presented as a "co-teacher" for  Boston University School of Medicine medical students. He prepared questions for each medical
student (tough ones, such as "What are your fears about being a doctor?" and "What makes you a better person?") and then they each ask him a question.

Thanks Matthew and Melissa for helping create dialogue and educate our future doctors and health care professionals about our Down syndrome community!
In the News

A Homecoming for Naia

Tierney Temple Fairchild recently had a guest column in the Boston Globe about her daughter Naia being elected Homecoming Queen of Charlottesville High School in Virginia. The Fairchilds story initially came to public attention 18 years ago when a Boston Globe reporter shadowed them and wrote a book about their journey. " We exposed ourselves - our doubts, faith, concerns, and questions - in an effort to help others facing similar challenges," she writes. We were thrilled to have Naia and Tierney as keynote speakers at our Annual Conference in 2015. Read the full article here

Collettey's Cookies Booming After Story Goes Viral

After a story about her venture on CBS went viral, MDSC member Collette Divitto's cookie business is thriving.
Divitto fields online delivery orders and has begun the process of obtaining an investor and getting her cookies into major food stores. According to a story in Good Housekeeping, her dreams are becoming a reality - as of December 1, she has received orders for more than 25,000 cookies. With the help of local Boston grocery store Golden Goose Market, Collette and the shop's employees baked over 500 cookies this weekend. "I haven't slept at all," she laughed to  CBS. "I am really amazed at the support for my company and my cookies."

Divitto, a 26-year-old Boston-based entrepreneur and MDSC member, launched her companied, dubbed Collettey's, from her very own apartment. She also happens to have Down syndrome.

"She's never accepted her disability," her mother, Rosemary Alfredo told  CBS News. When Divitto honed her passion for baking years ago and, eventually, developed a foolproof "amazing" cookie recipe, Alfredo knew that her daughter was onto something. "We kept telling her, 'This is a really good cookie. You could sell this!'" she said.

Read more about Collette's story here.
From Institution to Independence

On Jan. 11 from 7-9 pm at the MSDC office conference room, MDSC Self Advocate Donna Jay will share her incredible journey. As a former resident of two different institutions who went on to gain a high school diploma, Donna will discuss the significance of self-advocacy and self-determination for people with disabilities. 
Donna now works as a Peer Support Mentor at the Arc of Greater-Haverhill/ Newburyport, a trainer with Mass Advocates Standing Strong, and volunteers with the MDSC on legislative issues. 

RSVP REQUIRED: please email o.sophia.johansson@gmail.c om

This presentation is part of the Full Life Ahead Workshop Series Northeast, offered by Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC) in partnership with the MDSC. A Full Life Ahead is a series of monthly workshops designed for parents and caregivers as they plan for the future of their loved ones with a disability. The series focuses on transition, employment, housing, friendships, and other topics that will lead to independent and interdependent full lives in the community.

See here for more details.
New Family Social - Past and Future

Children 3 and under and their families - parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. came together early this month for our bi-monthly New Family Social at our MDSC office building. 

It was a special occasion as Mark Hunt of Disability Images (photos here) and Mary Ellen McDonough (photos here) helped capture formal holiday photos and candids. 

Mark your calendar for our next NFS on Saturday Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. Go here for more information and a full calendar.
Apply to Intern at the MDSC 

The MDSC is seeking a Development & Communications Intern to start as early as the new year. 

The Development & Communications Intern  will assist the organization on projects and tasks associated with our statewide Buddy Walk Program to promote acceptance and inclusion, various fundraising initiatives, public relations activities, and other operational duties that help the organization achieve its goals.

Read more and apply here

from all of us
at the MDSC!

MDSC Crocker Intern Mike Avakian's personal holiday message
Advocacy Updates from Beacon Hill

Organ Transplant Bill Becomes Law
On December 2, Governor  Charlie Baker signed the MDSC's priority  Organ Transplant Bill into law! 

This critical legislation, which was introduced to the MA legislature in January of 2015 by the MDSC in collaboration with lead sponsor Representative Jim Cantwell, prohibits disability-based discrimination by doctors, hospitals and medical organizations when determining what patient is eligible to receive an organ transplant. 

The MDSC is thankful that Massachusetts will join three other states (MD, CA and NJ) in protecting its citizens with intellectual or developmental disabilities from blatant organ transplant discrimination. Read more about the Organ Transplant Bill here

MDSC Spared Mid-year Cuts 
Thanks to our community's strong advocacy efforts, Governor Charlie Baker spared mid-year cuts to the MDSC line item in the FY17 budget.

Melissa Reilly hand-delivered our letter to Governor Baker from legislators, asking for his support of the MDSC line-item in the budget
The round of cuts (known as "9c" for the statute that governs them) were finalized last week. As a result, state funding for MDSC supports and services will remain intact for the upcoming fiscal year. 

"We've all been working diligently through our many channels to let the Governor and our legislators know how important this funding is for the MDSC's critical work," said MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher, "and our collective voices were heard." 

Thank you especially to Governor Baker and Secretary Sudders for listening to the voices of our community, and to  House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Sen. President Stan Rosenberg and all the legislators and members who advocated that this critical funding to remain intact. 

Budget Cuts Include Disability Items
Governor Baker issued nearly $100 million in state budge cuts this month, including some to disability services. MassHealth, which was cut about $20 million was the most significantly affected. Other programs impacted include Operation House Call, Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment, Dental Health Services, and Aging with Developmental Disabilities. Funding was also eliminated for the UMass Medical Center Down Syndrome Clinic in Worcester. 

We will keep you posted on this as the MDSC continues to advocate for funding in the State budget for all critical disability related funding.  If you want to make a difference, consider joining our Government Affairs Committee. Email us at
Capacity Crowd Gathers for Educators Forum

375 educators, administrators, parents and students came together last month on the campus of Holy Cross College to discuss and learn about innovations and insights into making schools more accepting and inclusive for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year's forum was designed to provide teachers and administrators with practical workshops to help them create inclusive climates in school - our theme was "Supporting Students in 21st Century Schools - Problem Solving the Roadblocks to Inclusive Education".

Special thanks to Thomas Hehir, Ed.D., of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education for his thoughtful and challenging keynote address, Natalie Lyons & Ashley Senosk of Northbridge High for their touching and inspirational Self Advocate Keynote, as well as to all our incredible presenters (who prepared informative presentations and some who traveled from quite a distance), to our exhibitors and to all the committed educators who attended and the school systems who supported them.

We were thrilled that teachers were able to take back to their classrooms a wealth of information, making schools better equipped to serve all their students and overcome roadblocks to creating an inclusive education.

33rd Annual Conference Slated for March 25

Mark your calendar for the MDSC's 33rd Annual Conference on Saturday, March 25, 2017. 

Each spring, hundreds of people with Down syndrome, their family members, health care professionals and educators from across New England attend our Annual Conference. Participants gather to hear the latest research findings and important information from national and local experts on a range of topics related to Down syndrome. They also share stories, celebrate victories, advocate for acceptance and inclusion, and reunite with other MDSC families. 

Attendees can  choose among several tracks for 
  • General Session Workshops for parents, educators, family members and others
  • Self-Advocate Workshops 
  • Brothers and Sisters Workshops 
At the Awards Luncheon portion of our Annual Conference, we are proud honor those individuals who have made a significant impact on the Down syndrome community. The MDSC presents  five awards during the luncheon: Media Award, Educator of the Year Award. Leadership Award, Allen Crocker Award of Excellence, Employer of the Year Award. 

Our luncheon has also become the perfect forum to highlight the individuality and determination of MDSC self-advocates. We do this through our MDSC Self Advocate Extravaganza presentation and the unveiling of our Annual Conference Video Montage, featuring MDSC member-submitted photos.

Stay tuned for the announcement of our official 2017 Theme, Call for Photos and Registration Opening. 

12th Bruins Alumni Hockey Game

All Stars fall to Bruins 9-5; Yet Everyone Wins

For the 12th year, the Boston Bruins Alumni faced off against the MDSC All Star team in our annual charity hockey game. And for the 10th time, the Bruins Alumni team won. 

But the real winners were our entire Down syndrome community, thanks to the amazing efforts and incredible spirit of our MDSC All Stars, Bruins Alumni, Event Sponsors and all the fans who came out to make it a special day, and support the MDSC's critical programs and services! 

Ryan Baker
Scott Bentley 
Drew Bowden
Shawn Bowler 
Jerry Brecher 
Joe Campagna
Tim Carter 
Nick Cavanna
Evan Deluty 
Neil DiMartinis 
Richard Downey (honorary Bruin for the day)
Jamie Hintlian 
Chris Kearney 
David Kelleher 
Ryan Kenney
Jim Kinchla 

Robert Lucier 
Matt Mattero
Craig Persechini 
Jamie Shepard
Corey Splaine
Eric Stepper

Shawn Miller 
Frank Simonetti 
Dave Shaw 
Reggie Lemelin 
Rick Middleton 
Tim Sweeney 
Kenny Hodge 
Tom Songin 
John Carter 

Bruce Crowder 
Bob Sweeney
Mike Mottau
Dan LaCouture


WAAF 97.7/107.3
Haffners Oil
The Fitzgerald Family
JK Limo
The Collins Family
MIT Federal Credit Union

We hope that everyone enjoyed  the game, the pre-game Free Skate, our Silent Auction and Raffle, and the Self-Advocate led National Anthem. Thanks to Frank Jansen for volunteering his time and talents to take photos

Down Syndrome & Mental Health Support 

The MDSC is pleased to sponsor a new support/networking group for families affected by Down syndrome and mental health challenges. 

Does your teen or adult loved one with Down syndrome also have a mental health diagnosis such as Depression, Anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Often these illnesses bring on a change in daily living skills, mood, or interest in activities once enjoyed. Seeing these changes and regression in your loved one can be very difficult. 

Please join other families who have a loved one with Down syndrome and a mental health diagnosis on Saturday, January 7, 2017 from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm at the Waltham Public Library, Trustee Room, 735 Main St, Waltham.

This meeting will be an opportunity to meet other families experiencing the same concerns, learn about how Down syndrome affects the treatment  of mental illness, and share resources to help with recovery. Dr. Julie Grieco, Clinical Neuropsychologist and Clo Cottrell, social worker from the Down Syndrome Clinic at MassGeneral Hospital will help lead the initial discussion. Please note that individualized psychiatric treatment will not be provided at this meeting, rather the meeting is meant to serve as a venue to obtain mutual support and networking for families with loved ones with Down syndrome and mental health concerns.

The MDSC is pleased to sponsor this new support/networking group for interested families. Please RSVP to Colleen Endres, Teen and Adult Services Director at or (781) 221-0024 x207. If you are not able to attend, please let us know if you are interested in learning more about this topic and/or connecting with other families.


Your Next Star Employment Initiative 

Campaign featured at state's Employment First Conference 

The MDSC's Your Next Star Employment campaign was featured during the luncheon portion of an Employment First Conference, organized by the MA Department of Developmental Services and the Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston.
MDSC Self Advocate Advisory Council member Melissa Reilly, an aide aide to Sen.  Jamie Eldridge, spoke about her education and employment journey. 

"I love my job," Melissa said. "I can honestly say that every day is an exciting day at work. My co-workers are all very awesome and I have the best boss.... Inclusion has made my world bigger and has given me many opportunities. This is what I wish for all people with disabilities. More opportunities for a good education that will prepare them for meaningful jobs."

Melissa is also featured in the Your Next Star centerpiece video, which was played during the luncheon. 

"Diversify Your Workforce" Forum Touches Down in Holyoke

The MDSC, in collaboration with the Western Mass. Employment Collaborative, held our third Diversify Your Workforce Forum last month, this one for the Western Mass Region to show employers how to find and hire qualified candidates for the workforce.

Our range of speakers included John Southworth and Bob McGoldrick from  Big Y World Class Market, Joe Bartulis from Fletcher Tilton Attorneys.  Aaron Vega State RepPedro A Figueroa from  The Home Depot and Paula Cagna from  Enterprise Holdings.

The MDSC was thrilled to partner with the Western Mass Emplo yment Collaborative, on this endeavor, which is an extension of our Your Next Star ( employment campaign. And thanks to the elegant The Delaney House in Holyoke for hosting us. 

On to "Diversify Your Workforce" forums on the South Shore and Greater Boston!
Advocates in Motion Program
The 2016-2017 AIM Program year is already off to a great start. Nearly 40 youth participants and 20 parents attended the first AIM Hangout last month. While the AIM Parent group was visited by speaker Cheryl Ryan Chan who presented on Person-Centered Planning (see here for more information), the  youth participants had fun sharing their favorite ways to be active, learned new bodyweight exercises and created customized workout routines with Emily LaMarca, Director of Empowered Through Health

On December 11, the AIM Hangout put on its own version of Master Chef, AIM Edition at the Newton YMCA.  AIM cooking contestants first decorated their own chef aprons and then went on to  create some delicious and healthy snacks, including  peanut butter energy balls, and smoothies. Mark your calendars for the next AIM hangout on Jan. 8 from 12:30 to 3:30

About AIM
All 13-22 year olds with Down syndrome are invited to join the AIM program so they can attend one or more of these events. Some of these activities have limited enrollment, so  email now to join the AIM program. For more information about AIM, contact Colleen Endres, MDSC Teen and Adult Services Director, at or 781-221-0024 x207.
Adult Self Advocate Programs

The Self Advocate Advisory Council (SAAC) is a group of 16 adults with Down syndrome who plan social events for peers, publish a newsletter, and tell the MDSC what is important to adults with Down syndrome.  
Our SAAC is a national model of self-determination who represent the larger self advocate community by advising the MDSC on issues important to all individuals with Down syndrome throughout the Commonwealth. 

SAAC New Year Party Jan. 15
Join SAAC for a  New Year Party   for adults with Down syndrome (ages 22 and up), their family members and direct support providers 

Sunday, January 15, 2017
Harry Parker Boathouse at Community Rowing Institute
20 Nonantum Rd, Brighton
$5 per person
Help us ring in the New Year with dinner, dancing, photo booth fun and more!   RSVP by  January 2, 2017  to  or  781-221-0024 x207

SAAC members held an Open House for adults at the MDSC office on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. SAAC members gave an update on the goals and projects they are working on and invited those who attended to share feedback on their needs and interests.

SAAC Liaison to Board of Directors
In a new position, the Self Advocate Advisory Council has appointed Tiffany Moore of Ashby to be their liaison to the MDSC Board of Directors. Tiffany will report to the Board regularly on the the SAAC's events, projects and initiatives.

At last month's Board Meeting, Tiffany introduced herself and gave the Board an overview of the SAAC's role and work. Learn more about the SAAC here

Allen Crocker Self Advocate Internship Program
Crocker Intern Michael Avakian
We recently wished a warm farewell to Allen Crocker Self Advocate Intern Mike Avakian. During his tenure, Mike worked with the MDSC to expand his painting business, including launching his personal online Etsy shop and creating postcards of his prints. Michael continues to work two days a week at Stop & Shop, and now has a firm footing to keep his art business thriving. 

Interviews for our next Crocker Intern are completed and our next intern will begin work  in January 2017. The MDSC Allen Crocker Self Advocate Internship was created in memory of Dr. Crocker and is open to adults with Down syndrome ages 22 and up.Crocker interns have the opportunity to work in our Burlington office on a project of their choosing for a period of six months, gaining valuable work experience, connecting with resources for community involvement and developing leadership skills. 

About SAAC 
The SAAC advises the MDSC on issues of importance to young adults and adults with Down syndrome, plans  events for adults (including SAAC quarterly socials and workshops) and participates in other MDSC programs. For more information about SAAC, contact Colleen Endres, MDSC Teen and Adult Services Director, at or 781-221-0024 x207.
Boston Marathon Runners Off and Running

The 2017 Boston Marathon is still 4 months away, but already the formidable members of Team MDSC are off to a fast start. Collectively, they have raised upwards of $34,000. But, like in the historic race they will run on on April 17, it's a long road ahead to reach their $80,000 goal.

All 8 members of Team MDSC are training hard, even as temperatures drop well below freezing outside. 

We want to give special recognition to  Matt Gousie , whose Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign earned him 2nd place as the top fundraiser for the entire John Hancock Boston Marathon  #GivingTuesday  promotion! Matt and his network raised an incredible $12,745 in honor of his daughter Cecilia to fund MDSC programs and services .
"It was such an emotional day because I have been so overwhelmed with everyone's generosity," Matt said. "Never in a million years did I think we would raise $10,000 in under 12 hours but one of the ideas that Derrah and I hold close is  #nolimits. There are no limits on our beautiful girl. Our friends, family, the Attleboro community and even some people that we don't know have proved there is no limit to your generosity. I am so thankful for the support you all have shown Cecelia today and everyday."

As a top fundraiser, Matt received an additional $1,000 donation from John Hancock!

We also want to highlight Stephanie Bishop, who is closing in on her $10,000 goal! A veteran employee at WinterWyman, her company celebrated Stefanie's beautiful daughter Nora  as part of their holiday 25 Days of Giving campaign. They did  so by  promoting  Stefanie Bishop's Boston Marathon efforts

Contribute to these incredible individuals here

Your Next Star Employment Campaign

This Determined Chef Wouldn't Let Celiac Disease Stand in Her Way

Tess Keijser couldn't have been more excited when in high school, she signed up for a culinary class. She knew right away what kind of career she wanted to pursue - something that involved cooking. But there was one complication - she became very ill with celiac disease, and while she got well in due time, she had to quit class and began pursuing some of her other interests. 

Like many in our community, Tess and her family weren't easily dissuaded from following her dreams. As her mom Dale tells it, she was struggling peeling carrots one night wishing she had a Pampered Chef peeler, when the lightbulb went on - Tess could be a Pampered Chef consultant. "C loves putting on shows..she loves being a leader. Could it work? Could she do it? Would they let her? Well, let's try." 

Read Tess' full story here
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