by Cheryl Makin from My Central Jersey:
Caryn Croll is a determined woman. She has come up against many obstacles in her 27 years, but has always pushed through to reach her goals. With her feisty and “can do” nature, Croll, born with Down syndrome, achieved academic and athletic success as a high school graduate and Special Olympic gold medalist.
Now the Franklin Park resident has her sights set on increasing awareness, opportunities and research for those with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
“We are all in the same boat,” she said. “We need to spread the word.”
Her face on Times Square
To this end, Croll will be featured on Saturday as part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) annual Times Square Video presentation. Croll’s photo helps highlight children, teens and adults with Down syndrome working, playing and learning alongside friends and family. The image of Croll was selected from more than 2,000 entries in the NDSS worldwide call for photos. More than 220 photographs will appear in the video. Croll’s photo shows her along with her “little sister” Michelle Croll, 23.
“I feel good about this,” said Croll, who will be present Saturday with her family to see the presentation. “It is exciting.”
A nonprofit organization with more than 375 affiliates nationwide representing more than 400,000 Americans who have Down syndrome, the NDSS aims to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities. That also is Croll and her family’s mission.
“We want to get more people involved,” said Croll’s mother Carol. “Instead of it being a state-by-state issue, we would like this to be a United States issue. All citizens deserve opportunities. That is the hope.”
An inspiration to do more
According to NDSS, these collective images promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. For Croll, they inspired her to do even more.
“They need to be more aware of what we can do,” said Croll, who annually speaks to sixth graders in the public-school system about her disability.
The display, which runs all day Saturday, kicks off Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and will be followed by the 20th Annual Flagship Buddy Walk. This year, Buddy Walk events will be held in more than 250 cities nationwide, as well as select international locations, in and around October.
“We will be walking in Central Park,” Croll said. “It is our first time doing the walk.”
“Our whole family is going,” Michelle Croll said. “We have been raising money for the walk since we found out about it and the video presentation. We are all looking forward to spending the day together.”
A close sisterly bond
Admittedly, both Croll daughters are very close, with the elder jumping into the role of “big sister” instantly at 3 1/2 years old. Croll is quick to remind friends and family just who is the big sister. The photo chosen for the Times Square video presentation was chosen to highlight the sisters’ bond.
Both sisters graduated from high school in 2008, with Croll earning her degree from the New Road School. While her sister pursues an acting career, Croll works for the Franklin Township Board of Education in the cafeteria of the MacAfee Road Elementary School. Throughout her life, she has shown dedication and a desire to be a contributing member of her family and society.
“Caryn works very hard,” Carol Croll said. “She has completed many job training programs and worked different jobs. She even worked a night job at Stop and Shop for a while. She sticks with her jobs.”