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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.

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.

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