IN 2021, WE WILL BE STRONGER TOGETHER!
It goes without saying that 2020 was a challenging year for so many in our community in unprecedented and unpredictable ways.

Now, with 2021 upon us, while those challenges remain, we have reason for hope. Our optimism stems in large part from what we learned through some of the darkest moments in the past year…. that our biggest strength as a community IS our community. We are Stronger Together!

That’s why Stronger Together is MDSC’s theme for 2021. With too many families still facing medical, educational, mental health, financial and employment challenges, we know that we cannot make it through this crisis by “going it alone.” Instead, we must work together, learn together and stand together to make our collective future bright again. We must be Stronger Together!

Read on for more information about how we will carry this important theme throughout the year.
STRONGER TOGETHER! 37TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
We hope you will join us March 27-28 for MDSC’s 37th Annual Conference, where we will bring our Stronger Together theme to life. Once again, we will spotlight innovative research on the horizon as well as timely updates related to Covid-19.

This year’s conference, which will be fully virtual, will feature LIVE Interactive Workshops, Specialty Workshops, On-Demand Workshops and a Self-Advocate Track! It will include dozens of sessions for people with Down syndrome, their family members, health care professionals and educators, featuring the latest research findings and timely information from national and local experts on a range of topics related to Down syndrome.
Plus, you won’t want to miss Keynote Speaker Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman race, and special guest emcee Lauren Falcone of WROR’s The Morning Show (right).

Special thanks to our national sponsors, the National Down Syndrome Society, Lumind IDSC and Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action.

"Stronger Together" Video Collage
It has become MDSC tradition to unveil our official video on our theme -- featuring your photos -- at our Annual Conference (see last year's here). Send us your "Stronger Together" photos and help bring our theme to life. (Note: photos must be sent by Feb. 15)

Email your hi-resolution photo to strongertogether@mdsc.org. If you want a chance at having your photo featured on Facebook as well, include your loved one's name, age (optional), hometown (optional) and a sentence or two on how you have seen in your own school, neighborhood, family or other community that we are Stronger Together.
A 37-YEAR TRACK RECORD OF ADVOCACY + INNOVATION
For the past 37 years, MDSC has been a vital support and staunch advocate for the 5,000-plus individuals across the Commonwealth with Down syndrome and their families. Today, powered by the strength, determination and resilience of our community, we are continuing to innovate to ensure that each individual with Down syndrome, especially in our new reality, has access to a full range of opportunities to lead a meaningful fulfilling life.

Over the past 10 months, MDSC has acted proactively and made significant changes to our traditional way of doing things so that we can best serve our families and community:
Advocacy + Public Policy Through Partnership
Ever since Covid hit last spring, we have been strengthening our collaborations with our local and national disability partner organizations as well as legislative leaders to address critical local and national policy concerns.

This includes everything from Covid Relief funding to hospital visitation policies, housing and education advocacy, employment as well as vaccine access -- all to ensure that people with Down syndrome are not disproportionately affected during these difficult times for everyone.


As a new legislative session (2021-2022} year begins, we’ll be working with our advocacy partners to refile our priority legislation including our Higher Ed Bill and Applied Behavioral Therapy Bill, and will review other top priorities to include on our statewide legislative platform. See the 2019-2020 platform here.
Providing Timely Covid-Related Resources
In the wake of the Covid crisis, we’ve been closely monitoring all of the pandemic-related information and resources that will be helpful to our community, not only for families but for educators and other professionals as well. These resources are prominently available on our website.


Recent additions include the state-issued Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory for Home-Based Healthcare Workers (including PCA’s and Adult Foster Care Providers); a Social Story for Self Advocates on What to Expect During My Covid 19 Vaccine; as well as important updates from MDSC's Medical & Scientific Advisory Council.
Re-imagining MDSC Programming Across the Board
Throughout the Covid crisis, we have been repositioning all our programs, services and events virtually to fully comply with social distancing and health safety standards. But we have also gone much further, creating a wealth of new virtual program opportunities for families and self advocates across the lifespan. Here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to, with more in store for 2021. 

  • Focussing on our MDSC CARES Program, serving our most vulnerable families, including those with extended hospital stays and ongoing complex medical needs. 
  • Expanding virtual supports for New Families through Parents First Call programming, including now monthly New Family Socials/Events, as well as New Moms Groups gatherings three times as often. 
  • Deepening our a commitment to our founding ideals of Diversity & Inclusion by hiring Diversity Outreach Coordinator Jessica Avila as well as Bilingual (Spanish) Community Outreach Specialist Tatiana Salinas, both mothers of children with Down syndrome. We are facilitating monthly Zoom call for our 21 Shades group for Black families, our Cultural Diversity Committee continues to meet quarterly and we now offer regular events led by a person of color. We also issued a statement in support of the driving force behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Holding regular virtual recreation activities for our 4-7 and 8-12 Year Old Playgroups. 
  • Supporting our Support Group Leaders around the state with monthly “Support and Sharing” calls and our upcoming Support Group Leader Annual Retreat (virtual this year) next month.  
  • Helping our affiliates transition to online, including the Down Syndrome-Autism Connection, now having monthly virtual chats, and Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome (DADS), who recently hosted their first online chat. 
  • Re-envisioning our Education Initiatives with Timely Webinars (i.e. medical experts discuss re-entry), our new Virtual Educators Forum, upcoming 2nd edition of our Education Manual, and the expansion of our Education Resource Parent Volunteer Program.
  • Moving all Self-Advocate Programming, including our signature Advocates in Motion and Self Advocate Advisory Council groups, online. In addition, we have launched a new 16-19 Year Old Social Group. These efforts have been critical given the extraordinary stresses placed on self advocates under Covid. 
  • Re-imagining all Public Awareness initiatives, including last year’s Buddy Walk in Your Own Community and our new 3-21 Race for MDSC Program to mark World Down Syndrome Day
 
As we approach a full year under Covid, we remain determined to help our members navigate this ever-changing landscape with as much helpful information, tools, resources and safe ways to connect as possible. For more information on any of these programs, please reach out to us at mdsc@mdsc.org
A NEW ONLINE HOME FOR MDSC
With the new fully-virtual world we’re living in, it’s more important than ever that you’re able to find the information and resources you need. That’s why we’re especially excited to be readying to launch an all-new MDSC.org!

MDSC’s new online home will highlight MDSC’s 4 Centers of Excellence -- Public Policy Action Center, Your Next Star Employment Center, National Parents First Call Center, and Center on Inclusive Education. It will also include a Resource Library with hundreds of fully-searchable resources.

We are thrilled to launch the website at the Annual Conference on March 27!
GET INVOLVED IN 2021
MDSC has become one of the strongest Down syndrome organizations in the country because so many of our dedicated parents, professionals, self-advocates and others are involved in helping us to achieve our mission. You, too, can get involved in so many ways. It takes all of us working together to make the most impact possible.
Create Your Own 3-21 Challenge This WDSD
World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 is quickly approaching – and, what better way to show your support for the Down syndrome community than by participating in a run, walk, bike ride, hike or any other creative way you can be active for the campaign, (i.e., 21 jumping jacks, 21 push ups, holding the plank for 21 seconds!) while supporting MDSC!

Help us raise awareness and funds by participating in a creative activity that you can do from anywhere. All donations will go directly to MDSC to support individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
Nominate Someone You Know for a MDSC Award
Each year, at our Annual Conference, we are proud to honor individuals who have made a significant, positive impact on the Down syndrome community. This year's virtual conference will be no exception, and we can use your help identifying the most worthy recipients in each of four categories

  • Media
  • Outstanding Educator of the Year 
  • Exemplary Employer
  • Allen Crocker Award of Excellence 
Other Ways to Be an Active MDSCer
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
Thank you for making the MDSC what it is today by supporting our many initiatives throughout this past year. Your energy and commitment has made all of our accomplishments possible.

We are indeed Stronger Together! For all of us at MDSC, I want to wish you and your family good health in 2021. And please, don't hesitate to reach out to let us know how we can help you and your family in the year ahead.
  

Sincerely,  
Maureen Gallagher, Executive Director