Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paying it forward to the Down Syndrome Community

When a parent enters the Down Syndrome community, it usually is not by choice.  But usually that parent, or parent to be is welcomed with open, loving arms.  They are gently guided and educated into the community.    Here is a super story about a dad giving back to one of the organizations that helped his family when his beautiful daughter was born.  He is paying it forward to the organization that has helped him.

Please read on to learn more about his DS hero and advocate, Steve Hawley.

Florence man runs for group that helped his family

Photo: Florence man runs for group that helped his family

After about eight years of receiving advice, education, and support from the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, Steve Hawley decided it was time to pay it back, one step at a time for seven miles.
Hawley, 45, will be running in the 40th annual New Balance Falmouth road race Aug. 13 to raise money for the organization that has helped him and his family raise a daughter with Down syndrome.
"How could I not?" Hawley asked.
Hawley said that about a year after his daughter Alice was born he attended his first Down syndrome conference in Worcester and the organization has been helping him, his wife Evie, and Alice's younger brother, Stuart, navigate the intricacies of raising a child with special needs.
Hawley said that the organization has provided information about the disease itself as well as information about diet, what expectations to set and when to back off, how to help Alice, now 9, interact with Stuart, and more.
Hawley said Alice's gross motor skills are poor, so she doesn't come with him during his three-times-a-week training sessions, but is still excited about the upcoming race.
"She understands that Daddy is running," he said.
Hawley said that he's been doing interval training, running ¾ of a mile and walking ¼ mile trying to build up his endurance for the seven-mile race in the middle of August.
"My goal is to finish," he said.
He's been getting advice and training tips from some of his co-workers, three of whom are advanced runners.
The sometimes excessive heat so far this spring and summer have made training more grueling than he expected, but has maintained his schedule and expects to be ready by race day.
Part of that preparation involved a trip to his wife's native Falmouth, to check out the course beforehand to avoid as many surprises as possible.
About a mile into the course is an uphill climb toward a lighthouse and about ¾ of the race's final mile is all uphill, before sloping downward for the race's final stretch.
Hawley said that he expected to raise about $1000, but in his heart was hoping that he might reach $2000, a goal he just surpassed last week with almost a month left to go before race day.
A link to Hawley's donation page can be found on his blog at www.plinth.org/wordpress along with a journal he writes about his experiences with Alice and his family, and advice for others who have loved ones with Down Syndrome.
Local woman honored
Cathy Wanat, of Florence, Dave Slowick, of Huntington, and Tony Kurpaska, of Pelham were among 21 members of the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists honored by Governor Deval Patrick for their efforts during the June 2011 tornadoes that touched down in Western Massachusetts.
The group was presented with the 2012 Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence, the state's highest honor for its employees and named after the former Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The honorees were part of the state's Tornado Response Team, assisting communities with hazardous material clean-up, debris removal, restoring drinking and wastewater infrastructure and helping the Federal Emergency Management Administration to evaluate the scope of the damage.
Annual Bible camp coming up
The greater Northampton Cooperative Vacation Bible School announced its 2012 session will be running from July 23-27.
The school will meet at the Florence Congregational Church at 130 Pine St. from 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and is open to children starting at age 4 and up to those entering fifth grade in the fall. The cost is $15 per child.
The church invites those above the age limit to attend the school as students up to senior citizens to consider donating their time as volunteers. For more information, call 413-584-1325.
Bob Dunn writes a regular column about Florence. Submit items to bdunn@gazettenet.com.

Be gentle.

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