March 2016 eNewsletter

Art lesson given by the art students from HISD Johnson Middle School for the Performing & Visual Arts 

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March 2016 - In This Issue:
President's Corner 


The excitement is in the air!

We are celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, at our Cinderella Ball.   The Candidates have been busy learning proper etiquette for the ball.  They have been learning to do the waltz and with the direction of the very talented Dana Sparks, Choreographer for Theatre Under the Stars, the Candidates will delight the audience with a musical performance. 

The race to be crowned Cinderella and Prince Charming went down to the last minute, but in the end we were able to determine the two winners.  Everyone worked very hard to make sure that our goal was met and as of today, we are at 92% of our goal.  I am certain that we will surpass our goal by the end of our celebration.

I would like to send a great big "Thank You" to all the team captains who came up with some very creative fundraising ideas.  Thank you for your many, many hours spend talking to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers about our great cause.  The many calls that we received is proof that you touched many hearts and just as many pocket books.  

I guess what impressed me the most was the reaction of our Candidates when the announcement was made about who would be crowned Cinderella and Prince Charming.  The majority of them were very excited about the winners.  Once they all realized that every single penny goes to benefit the Down Syndrome Academy, they were even more thrilled.  They felt that this was their contribution to the program which is continuing to expand.  This means more equipment for PE, more book shelves for the library, more supplies for our vocational program and even more teachers.  

That's right. As you know, we are all volunteers and the only payroll expense is for our talented and dedicated teachers and teachers aids that work here.   With our Summer Program just around the corner, we are planning on increasing the number of teachers from six to eight and our Teacher's Aides from two to three. All this is possible because of the success of our Cinderella Ball.
Great things are happening at the Down Syndrome Academy!  Like us on Facebook and see just how much our program has grown in two years.  Celebrate the day to day moments that our students experience and come celebrate World Down Syndrome Day with us at the Cinderella Ball on March 19, 2016.     
Until next month, don't be a stranger.  Stay in touch.
Your Friend,

In the News...

Book Club Launches Spring 2016   

Hello!  My name is Claire Groff .  I'm a recent University of Texas graduate who moved back to Houston with a job in marketing. 

Since being back in Houston,  I really miss volunteering on a regular basis.  While living in Austin, I helped lead a book club for adults with Down syndrome through the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas .  

I approached Rosa a few weeks ago and she asked me if I would be willing to start a book club here in Houston.  I responded with a resounding YES!

Each session will run about 8- 10 weeks.  During the meetings, members  will socialize, vote on which book to read, practice reading out loud, and have the chance to buy a snack. 
The club will hopefully begin in the next month.  If you are interested in being a part of it, please take the survey here.  You can also email me at with questions. 

Calendar of Events

March 5   ~ Etiquette Classes & Waltz Lessons for Cinderella Ball Candidates
10:00am - Noon at the Down Syndrome Academy

March 14 & 16   ~ Etiquette Classes & Waltz Lessons for Cinderella Ball Candidates
3:00pm - 5:00pm at the Down Syndrome Academy

March 19  ~ Cinderella Ball (7pm- 11pm)
Norris Conference Center's Red Oak Ballroom Houston CityCentre

April 2  ~ T21 Spring Festival, 1 - 4 pm, watch for future details on location 

Down Syndrome Academy
Wellness ~ Academic ~ Vocational

Parent Teacher Annual Meeting February 2nd

We had a Spanish-only meeting for those parents that prefer the information in Spanish and a meeting in English.  We had 86% of our students represented at these meetings and some students had both of their parents in attendance.   My hats off to the parents for making this meeting such a high priority! 

The meetings were packed with information. The first guest was Dr. Lauren Anderson, from the University of Houston, College of Optometry.   She gave us a brief update on the Vision Study that is taking place and recruited more candidates to participate.  

Next came Claire Groff, who spoke enthusiastically about the Next Chapter Book Club that she will be starting this spring.  After Claire, we heard from Charles Trussell, our Employment Specialist, who discussed the vocational training program that we are planning.  He invited the parents of interested students in finding employment to complete a survey and return it to him.  

The parents then rotated through each of the four classes according to their student's Level number.  Our teachers, Ms. Boyd, Ms. Smith, Ms. Fendel, and Coach Darryl Hughes  spent 15 minutes reviewing highlights of the lessons that will be taught as well as the field trips that are currently planned for our students in 2016.  

After the classroom meetings, we returned to the Activities Room where we gave each parent a copy of the 2015 financial statement*.  We discussed the fundraisers and donations of 2015.  We went over each of the expenses and what it costs to operate the high-quality program that we offer and that it took 11,455  total volunteer hours in 2015 (averaging 950 hours per month) in order to manage our different programs.  

Steve Friedman ended the meeting by introducing each of the committee leaders and inviting the parents to join and get involved in a committee.   

You can request a copy of this financial statement by sending an email to Rosa Rocha.
It is also available at

Johnston Middle School Art & Video Students Volunteer

The Broadcast Journalism students filmed, under the guidance of Ms. Arlt. It was their third time coming to the Academy. This article was published in the Johnston Middle School's February 15, 2016 Newsletter: 

Six art students and their teacher, Ms Gonzalez, led a lesson on a special type of painting using marbles based on the inspiration of Jackson Pollock, an American artist who is well-known for  his abstract artistry and his unique style of drip painting.  These works of art are going to be available for bidding on at our Silent Auction during the Cinderella Ball on March 19th.

"The art project was great. It was fun. It was good and I'm an artist. The paint looks really great with all the colors and the marbles. My favorite color is green." - David Rocha, student

Cinderella Ball

This year's winners for Cinderella & Prince Charming

Guest of Honor: Sujeet Desai, Musician

Sujeet is in his 30's and is an award-winning professional musician and self-advocate with Down syndrome.   His mother, Sindoor, will speak about Sujeet's journey, most recently performing in Carnegie Hall in New York City.   Sujeet plays seven musical instruments including the clarinet, saxophone, violin, piano, and trumpet. In addition to his career at home, he travels the World giving solo performances in more than 15 countries and leading self-advocacy workshops to rave reviews. Currently, he lives a happy independent life in his apartment in Rome, New York.  

Sujeet playing Amazing Grace
VIDEO:  Sujeet Desai performs with the
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra members during 
the Message of HOPE Series 2010.
Sujeet Desai practices in his parents' Wheatfield, NY home for his debut at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.
VIDEO: Sujeet Desai practices in his parents'
Wheatfield, NY home for his debut at Carnegie Hall
on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

I n 2009, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) asked Sujeet to become a national spokesperson and to be a part of their "My Great Story" Down syndrome awareness project. He featured as "The Traveler", discussing the opportunities for World travel that his career has given him and the article was published in over 40 magazines throughout the US. 

Sujeet also performed a solo recital and a duet with Kenny G at the opening ceremony of the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho in front of 14,000 people and was interviewed by former World and Olympic figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi

He has been the subject of documentaries, TV and international newspaper interviews. 
He has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and 20/20, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine.

Click to view  " Carnegie Hall Dream Unfolds" in the Niagara Gazette along with a video of Sujeet practicing the piano for his concert at Carnegie Hall .    For further information on Sujeet you can visit his website at .

Etiquette Class & Waltz Lessons continue...
The cadets from Tomball MJROTC have started the Etiquette classes for our Cinderella Ball Candidates.  One of the wonderful things about the cadets is that many of them participated in last year's Cinderella Ball.  They were juniors and this year as seniors they are in charge of the classes.  They also have juniors and sophomores that are in training for next year. Wonderful opportunity to teach, which is a responsibility for the leaders in the MJROTC program.  Great Job Tomball Memorial High School MJROTC

Upcoming Etiquette Classes  & Waltz Lessons* 
Please note the March 12 class has been cancelled.

Saturday, March 5

Monday, March 14

Wednesday, March 16

*All candidates will be required to attend 4 of the 6 classes as part of their requirement.  The classes are conducted at the Down Syndrome Academy, 5200 Mitchelldale, Suite D4, Houston, Texas 77092. 


Rehearsals with Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS)  

The Cinderella Ball Musical Performance lessons are well under way, led by Dana Sparks, choreographer for TUTS.   Dana has been teaching her choreography every Tuesday afternoon for the last couple of months at the Academy, and she brings her enthusiasm, creativity, and love for our students!  
Last year's musical performance was such a hit that the Candidates were invited to perform four encore performances after the Ball for various conferences and celebrations around the Houston area.
TUTS Dance Practice, Feb 2016
Thank you to our 2016 Cinderella Ball Sponsors

These are our Cinderella Ball sponsors as of February 15, 2016:

Sponsorship Application
Cinderella Ball Committee

If you are interested in serving on one or more of our Committees, please contact the committee chair to see how you can participate.

Rosa Rocha
Event Coordinator
(281) 989-0345
Kathleen Westfall
(281) 989-0234
Jennifer Friedman
Communications, Publicity, Signage
(713) 252-1612
Karen Evans
Silent Auction
(832) 630-9696
Bert Castillo
(713) 302-4145

T21 Social Club

T21 Event:   "Where Hope Grows" with  actor David DeSanctis 

On Saturday, February 27th  Rosa Rocha was invited to share a bit about the Friends of Down Syndrome organization after the "Where Hope Grows" film, featuring a baseball player befriending a young man with Down syndrome named "Produce" who works at the local grocery store.  After the movie there was a reception with special guest, actor David DeSanctis.

"The film was an amazing example of how special needs community is often viewed by others and can be subjected to challenges, but also displays empathy, trust, companionship, and strength. The actor, David, provides an amazing performance, capturing the emotion and point of such an important film."
~ Steve Friedman, parent

"The Film Festival was a wonderful lifelong friendship lesson.  My daughter, Crissie and I loved reminiscing about our own home town in Kentucky and meeting David DeSanctis, the actor.  He shared his dream of the sequel he hopes to have, his love of acting, and his hopes of becoming a Texas cowboy and attend a local cowboy church."
~ Bert Castillo, T21 Chair

February Super Bowl Party 

"The Super Bowl party was four hours of cheering, team excitement, delicious food provided by "Mr. Insulation" & loads of laughter.  The array of orange, black & shades of blue set the atmosphere of hollering & high giving with family & friends.  Football games were played thru out the game giving each winner the Broncos "we are the champs" smile."
~ Bert Castillo, T21 Chair

Upcoming Events

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Hours

For the month of February

2016 Year to Date

10 Ways you can support FoDS

1.  Become a member

Membership is always FREE!  Join us TODAY!

Click to download the 

Please help us increase our membership!  You can download our membership form and share with your friends and family to spread the word about Friends of Down Syndrome.  As you know, FoDS is primarily a volunteer-driven organization and we can always use your help to spread the word in the community.

If you would like to be a part of the Membership committee, please contact Leslie Way.

2.  Join a Committee and volunteer... Make a difference! 

Friends of Down Syndrome's committees are comprised of parents, siblings, and friends who want to donate their knowledge, time, and passion for FoDS and its mission. 

Volunteering at an event, from home, or in the office, as a committee member or all makes such a difference in our students lives today and in delivering our vision of school, services, and housing for the future. 

 Please contact any committee lead to talk about your interests today!  (See below)

Click to view larger

Current volunteer opportunities

We have a warm and friendly atmosphere, we're very casual and sometimes it's work but a lot of the time it's great fun, and you would be making an enormous contribution to our school and the students. 

You may be one of our student's parents, a grandparent or other relative, friend or may know of a reliable person seeking volunteer work. Most of the tasks/projects are things that can be done either at the Down Syndrome Academy or from home.  
  • Teachers aids for Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9am-3pm
  • Receptionist Tuesdays & Thursdays 9am-3:30pm
  • "Building Blocks" Coordinator (educational series for caregivers and families)
  • Job Coach for Thursdays 9am-3pm.  We are needing someone who would be able to take a group of our students into the community to work.
If you are interested, you can email or visit Rosa Rocha at the Down Syndrome Academy Mondays thru Fridays from 8am - 5pm.  Please feel free to call us at (281) 989-0345 f or more details.

Committee Leaders

If you are interested in serving on one or more of our committees, please contact the committee leader to see how you can get involved.

~ Available ~ "Building Blocks" Educational Series
Karen Evans Fundraising
(832) 630-9696
Steve Friedman Housing & Building, Capital Campaign (281) 785-9884
Jennifer Friedman
Marketing & Public Relations
(713) 252-1612
Leslie Way Membership (832) 276-4878
Bert Castillo 
T21 Social Club
(713) 302-4145
Kathleen Westfall Volunteers (281) 989-0234

3.  Think of us when you are making charitable donations

If you are looking for a way to make a difference, please consider making a charitable donation to Friends of Down Syndrome.  Many companies will match the donations as well.  

4.  Consider "Gifting" to us

Gifting makes it possible for you to honor a loved one while at the same time helping Friends of Down Syndrome to continue to provide the quality programs that we offer for teens and adults with Down syndrome in the Houston area.

Honor Gifting    Wondering what to give the person who has everything?  You can celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, retirement, births, or any other life cycle event with an Honor Gift to Friends of Down Syndrome.

Memorial Gifting  A Memorial Gift is a beautiful testament to the life of a beloved family member or friend who has passed away. It can be just the right way for expressing compassion to someone who has had a loss and is an appropriate way to remember a special person while at the same time helping others. The person arranging the funeral or memorial service can instruct the funeral director to insert the following phrase in the obituary notice:

"The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made and sent to Friends of Down Syndrome, 5200 Mitchelldale, Suite D4, Houston, Texas  77092. You may also call Rosa Rocha at (281) 989-0345 to arrange your donation." 

Legacy Gifting  Please consider leaving a legacy by including Friends of Down Syndrome
in your will. 

Vehicle Gifting Please consider donating your unwanted vehicle.

Donations can be made and sent to: 
Friends of Down Syndrome, 
5200 Mitchelldale, Suite D4, 
Houston, Texas  77092. 

Please include your name, the reason for the gift, the honoree's mailing address, your mailing address, and daytime phone number.  For more information call Rosa Rocha at (281) 989-0345 to arrange your donation.

5.  Add FoDS to your Kroger's Community Rewards Card

~It takes less than 5 minutes  to support our organization~

Thank you to Jamila Green for writing these instructions for us!


1.  Create or login to your Kroger account by clicking:
2.  Click the COMMUNITY TAB, t hen click COMMUNITY REWARDS, and click  ENROLL NOW.

3.  On your ACCOUNT SUMMARY scroll to Community Rewards section and click ENROLL.
Enter The organization number - 99855  --OR--  Friends of Down Syndrome
5.  Select - Friends of Down Syndrome
6.  Click ENROLL

Your Account Summary should now reflect your support of FoDS:
  • Organization Name: FRIENDS OF DOWN SYNDROME
  • Organization Number: 99855
  • Enrollment Date: 01/18/2016
  • Must renew your membership every year in August.

6.  Choose us as your designated charity when shopping on Amazon Smile 

~It takes less than 5 minutes to support our organization~

Thank you to  Jamila Green  for writing these instructions for us.


2.    Sign in with your current Amazon login information  OR  Create an Amazon Account
3.   Select an ORGANIZATION, e nter Friends of Down Syndrome  in the search field and c lick     "Search"
4.   Select - Friends of Down Syndrome
5.   Confirm that you see ~ Supporting:  Friends of Down Syndrome directly under the Amazon search field.

6.  Now Shop! Shop! Shop!   Each time you shop with Amazon,  you must sign in at for the organization to receive rewards.
NOTE:  Amazon Smile does not currently support Subscription & Save orders.

7.  Donate an item from 0ur Wish List

We have been blessed by so many wonderful and generous donors!   Here are the items we are currently needing.  

Cases of copy paper (Sam's Club $26.98)

Shredder (Sam's Club $99)

Cleaning supplies

Paper Towels 12/packs

Ice Maker (free-standing)
Cases of bottled water and Lipton Diet Green Tea

from Lowe's $7.98 each

from Sam's Club $55.98 each
If you can help, please drop the items off at the  Down Syndrome Academy,  5200 Mitchelldale, Suite D4, Houston, Texas 77092,  Monday thru Friday, 8am-5pm.   We are happy to provide you with an "In-Kind" donation receipt letter for your tax purposes.   For more information, contact  Rosa Rocha  at (281) 989-0345.  

8.  Purchase your FoDS merchandise and help to spread awareness!

Spirit Shirts
Tote Bags 
FoDS Tote Bag
Tote Bag, complete with a place
for a water bottle  $10
DSA Magnet

10.  Give us your feedback...

For comments, suggestions, and article & photo submissions for our monthly eNewsletter, please contact  Jennifer Friedman .  All content is due by the 25th of the month.

Contact Us

Rosa Rocha, President

(281) 989 - 0345

5200 Mitchelldale, Suite D4
Houston, Texas  77092