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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Finding Jillian

After Carrie told me she would not be able to help me with the designing, I didn’t get upset at all, I just knew I hadn’t found the right person yet.  So the next day I called back to the design school and spoke with the person in charge of job placement.  Carrie had been kind enough to call the school as well, and told them what I needed.   The woman at the school already had a name for me.  She told me about a girl that had graduated the previous year and still had not been working in her profession.  She said she might be available.  Her name was Jillian.
I called Jillian right away and it was truly my lucky day.  I spoke with her for quite some time and knew immediately that I had found my designer.  She was very kind and sweet and was not working at the time; she was certainly available to start working right away.  We set up an appointment the very next day and I couldn’t wait to meet her in person.
We set up a meeting the very next day.  She was not only very sweet but very beautiful as well.  She was tall and dressed like a designer.  She came prepared and brought some of her work to show me.  She had graduated at the top of her class and, as an extra bonus, her mother was a seamstress.  She was ready to start anytime.  She did live quite far, but she didn’t mind driving at all.  It looked like I’d had another divine intervention.  As I realized later, Carrie had made the right decision not to get involved because she worked a full-time job.  The job for me became full time right away.  Once I found Jillian, she began working everyday and Downs Designs was moving forward!
Together we agreed to meet with the models.   I told her I had taken the measurements already, but now that I had her, I wanted her to start from scratch.  She knew what she was doing, and I was not the expert in this field.  So now that I had her available to work full time, I thought we could start from the beginning. 
So it began, we called all our models and set up a time to meet.  I decided that I would take pictures of our progress.  I wanted to start documenting our work.  What I was doing seemed to be going too well to be just a coincidence.   I thought maybe that five years from now I would have wished I had kept good records and pictures and by that time it would be too late.  Downs Designs is like a baby in the womb.  Right now it’s just beginning to develop.  The DNA is in place and it’s starting to take form.  Soon the arms and legs would begin to take shape.  I didn’t want to miss a thing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taking Measurements

Well, this next chapter is a bit of a challenge!  I have now made appointments with several parents and their adult children to take measurements…but to tell you the truth; I’m really clueless about this next step.  So, I set up another meeting with Carrie about how to take measurements.  I thought a little tape measure wrapped around someone’s hips was probably going to be very easy…little did know!
Carrie and I met again at my office after she finished work one day.   She brought me a little bag of accessories that I would need to use for taking proper fitting measurements…OMG!  She started to explain the procedures of how to wrap elastic around certain parts of the body, and then showed me how to mark various spots with tape and from those markers, hang a weight on string to get a straight line down from one point to another.  
It took about two hours for her to explain this procedure and I was really nervous.  So I decided I would practice on my mother a few times.  After several tries I actually got more and more comfortable with wrapping and taping and taking lots of different measurements to areas of the body that had many different names.  Okay…what does Petite Hip mean? 
My first appointment was with Rae Kinnaird’s daughter, Kelleen.  What a delightful and beautiful girl she was.  I really enjoyed my visit and felt very confident about my measurements.  I took pictures of everything and the position of the markings.  I thought it would be helpful to show them to Carrie.   It actually turned out to be a wonderful experience.  I couldn’t wait to meet more of my models.  After about 3 weeks, I had gotten measurements from all of the them. 
Shortly after I finished measuring, Carrie calls me with some shocking news.  She told me that she didn’t feel she would have enough time to help me; she had been offered a job at the design school teaching a few nights a week.   What was she saying?  She was quitting before we had even gotten started.  Now what was I to do? 
I couldn’t believe how calm I was.  I told myself that Carrie must not be the person that I was supposed to be working with, there must be someone else out there that I just hadn’t met yet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Looking for "Fit" Models

Without really knowing anyone with Down syndrome except for my 5-year-old granddaughter, I had no idea how I would find volunteers to be a “fit” model for me.  First I called The Upside of Downs, our local Down syndrome organization.  I spoke with the director; her name was Robin.  I briefly told her of my plans and asked if we could meet.  She was very gracious and agreed to meet with me. 
Next, I stopped by our local rehabilitation center.  I found out that I wasn’t actually allowed to speak to anyone there due to privacy laws.  So that avenue was not an option.   I would have to wait for my meeting with Robin.
Our meeting was at a Starbucks in Beachwood on my next day off.  She told me to look for a woman wearing a black hat.  When she walked in I knew right away it was her.  What a lovely lady she was.  We sat and talked for a while and I told her of my plans.  She was very excited and offered any support she could.  I told her I was looking for adults who might be willing to be “fit” models for Downs Designs.  She suggested that I contact Rae Kinnaird.  She told me that Rae had an organization of adults with Down syndrome and other special needs that got together regularly for different events like bowling, jazzercise and karaoke night.  She gave me her phone number and suggested I contact her.  She told me more about the Upside of Downs and what the organization was all about.  She was so helpful and I couldn’t thank her enough.  She even agreed to put an article in the USOD Newsletter about Downs Designs.  I was so appreciative of all her help.

After I left, I couldn’t wait to contact this woman named Rae.  I actually made the call on my way home from our meeting.  I was able to reach her right away.  I introduced myself and explained how I had obtained her phone number.  I told her what I was trying to accomplish and that I was looking for adults to allow me to take their measurements: she was also very helpful.  She explained a little bit about her group.  She said I might want to attend their karaoke night.  They met at Toth’s Bar the first Wednesday of every month.  Their next event would be Wednesday, December 2, 2009, and she said I would be welcome to stop by.  She said that some of the parents would be there and I could possibly talk with them.  You won’t believe where this place was…Toth’s Bar was in a strip mall just a short walk from my house.  Another accident…I think not!
There was nothing more I could do at this time but wait.  The night finally came but the weather that night was very cold and icy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  With the weather being so poor, I thought it would be a small crowd.  Armed with business cards and a notepad, I was ready to go. 

When I walked in the door, I was greeted by Rae Kinnaird.  She was at the door taking money for the buffet.  I introduced myself and we talked for a while.  She explained that there was a buffet and a disc jockey here and everyone would eat first and then the singing would begin.  Later there would also be dancing.  I couldn’t believe my eyes…the place was packed!  People with Down syndrome and other special needs filled the room along with parents and caretakers.   

Timmy and Lori

The atmosphere in this place was amazing.  The air was full of excitement.  Everyone was just starting to line up for the buffet.  So I sat with Rae for awhile and we talked about my plans.  I explained what my business was all about and told her that I would need to find several people who might be willing to help with my project.  I was hoping to talk with several parents tonight and try to set up a time that I could come to their homes and take a few measurements of their son or daughter. 

Kelleen, "The Diva"

Rae’s daughter was my first volunteer.  She was 33 years old and was born with Down syndrome; her name was Kelleen.  What a beautiful girl.  I talked with her for a little while and explained what I was doing.  She was happy to help.   Wow, that wasn’t so hard! 

Charlie and Sheryl

As the night went on, I began to feel a little more comfortable talking with people.  I met quite a few parents who were dropping off their adult children or were just hanging out at the bar with some of the other parents.  By the end of the evening I had found my volunteers.  I’d made appointments with all them and looked forward to the next step.  By the end of the night, I had been completely enlightened by the whole experience.  I had just enjoyed a lovely evening with some of the nicest people I had ever met. 

Michael and Emily


There were so many adults with mental and physical challenges there, but I didn’t see that at all, I just saw lots of people having fun.  Whatever challenges they had, they left them at the door.