About 18 years ago me and my best pal were knee deep in planning the first Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Awareness in Jonesboro. We worked obsessively, day and night to make it a success. From gaining corporate sponsors and designing T-shirt’s, to making sure volunteers had coffee and cocoa the morning of the walk. All of it done by two women who didn’t have a child with or any viable connection to Down Syndrome. At some point during the planning process, I traveled to the national parent center conference in Washington. Back then you were required to stand and introduce yourself and provide insight as to why you were a part of the parent center movement. I was so nervous because I was new to my position in the parent center and had never even met most of the 200 people in the room. When it was my turn, I stood on wobbly knees and offered my name, organization, and said that my reason for being a part of the movement was that I had a 14-year-old son with DOWN SYNDROME. It slipped out before I could catch myself. I received some confused looks from those at my table who knew better. Paula Goldberg, the director of Pacer Center was sitting at the head table and making direct eye contact when I made my goof. She knew that my son Jeremiah had Autism. Her
eyes narrowed and I am sure I saw a slight smile curl her lips. Once all 200 introductions were complete, she took the mic and said, "Shelby, would you like to add anything?" Instantly famous for all the wrong reasons, I stood back up and recanted my previous introduction in part. Sharing my extensive reasons for the brain overload of all things Down Syndrome and then proudly proclaimed my allegiance to the world of autism. We raised more than $25,000 for our local Down Syndrome support group that inaugural year. Our hearts were in it, even if my brain was not..Although my son has Autism, I have always felt a kinship to all families of children with disabilities. Althought our lives may be different in some ways, there are way more similarities, especially in the fact we all want a better qualify of life for our children. It was many years later I started TCFEF and have continued working towards that goal. I hope everyone, regardless if they have a child with a disability or not, can come together and Celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month and all that we have achieved and still need to achieve in the disability world.