by Mark W. Leach from Courier-Journal:
Last year, Down Syndrome of Louisville (DSL) finished raising $3.8 million for the construction and opening of its first-in-the-nation, purpose-built Lifelong Learning Center on South Hurstbourne Parkway. Without the support and enthusiasm of this community, DSL’s dream would not have been possible. But little did we know that the Louisville campus would be just the first Lifelong Learning Center we would open.
At the same time DSL was planning its grand opening, it was also merging with the Down Syndrome Support Association of Southern Indiana (DSSASI). DSSASI had a proud tradition of serving our families in Southern Indiana for many years. Through a generous grant from the Ogle Foundation, DSL and DSSASI decided that uniting made better sense for serving both sides of the Ohio River.
Over the past year, the two groups have continued to grow together, most recently with the combined annual community walk held on Oct. 6 at Waterfront Park in celebration of October being National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The walk was bigger and exceeded budget through the combined effort, when before there had been two separate walks on different weekends.
Soon, DSL, now serving Kentucky and Southern Indiana, will move its Indiana Lifelong Learning Center from New Albany to a new location. DSL will move into newly renovated space at the Goodwill Bridgepointe facility on Lewis & Clark Parkway, across from the Green Tree Mall, in Clarksville. We are excited to soon hold another grand opening and welcome our families to a spacious multipurpose room, brand new kitchen and classrooms for our educational programming for individuals with Down syndrome across their entire life span.
This is not to say there have not been challenges. Anyone who has been through a merger, be it in business, combining congregations, or even a marriage, knows that there is a learning process about your new partner. Some say the Ohio can be not just a river, but an ocean. And we have had to deal with myriad new rules and regulatory differences with the school systems and state Medicaid programs. But, fortunately, unlike many other mergers, we have something very important in common: an extra 21st chromosome.
The triplicate of the 21st chromosome is the genetic cause for Down syndrome. While just as our communities have their own characteristics, so, too, does each family and each individual with Down syndrome. But, we are united in that we are all advocates, seeking to transform this world into the most welcoming, inclusive and respectful society for our loved ones with Down syndrome.
The merger of two Down syndrome support organizations is a rarity in America. Too often, communities become split. Egos and personal passions result in nonprofit leaders leaving and “taking their Down syndrome with them,” establishing competing organizations. Here, through the generosity of the Ogle Foundation and the wisdom of DSL and DSSASI, two organizations have sought to bridge the Ohio River to serve all individuals with Down syndrome in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
As a nonprofit, we rely upon the generosity of both time and dollars from our community partners and individual volunteers. If you would like to become involved with Down Syndrome of Louisville now serving Kentucky and Southern Indiana, please contact us toll free at 855-DSL-JOIN (855-375-5646). And, of course, follow us on Facebook and visit www.downsyndromeoflouisville.org for the most up-to-date schedule of educational programming for your loved one with Down syndrome and opportunities to participate in the organization.
Board President –
Down Syndrome of Louisville –
Serving Kentucky and Southern Indiana –
Louisville 40291 –
The writer also is a Louisville attorney. Upcoming events for the organization include the Nov. 10 Annual Banquet and Auction at Joe Huber’s and the imminent grand opening for the Clarksville Lifelong Learning Center. — Editor