World Down Syndrome Day was established by Down Syndrome International in 2006 to commemorate, create, and accomplish a level of awareness and understanding of Down syndrome... to highlight the potentials and abilities of people with Down syndrome. (The date of March 21, or 3-21, was chosen because individuals with Ds have 3 copies of the 21st chromosome.)
Our family celebrates Down syndrome in different ways throughout the year. Though Down syndrome doesn't define Rylee, it is a part of who she is, and we embrace that part of her whole-heartedly.
Unfortunately, there are many kids who have extra chromosomes, but don't have families to embrace them.
Last year, I became aware of this.
And so, on this day -- World Down Syndrome Day -- I want to share it with you.
Reece's Rainbow is an International Down Syndrome Orphan Ministry. Their mission is vast: they not only raise awareness about children with Ds in foreign orphanages and their availability to be adopted, but they raise adoption grant donations for each child waiting, and help guide adoptive families through the adoption process.
I have learned a lot on the Reece's Rainbow website, but I have learned even more by reading blogs of families who have adopted children with Ds through Reece's Rainbow. (I am definitely not an expert on this... the families who have lived through this adoption process know first-hand what Reece's Rainbow does for children. I just want to share what I have learned through their stories.)
You know... here in the United States, we may have to deal with the occasional narrow-minded individual regarding individuals with Down syndrome. We may have to correct someone who, without thought, uses the "R" word. We may have to work a little harder at times to get therapeutic services for our child with Down syndrome.
But in some other countries? It isn't even socially acceptable to bring your child with Down syndrome home from the hospital.
Babies with Down syndrome are literally abandoned at the hospitals, only to be sent to orphanages where they will spend a few years. Eventually, (between 3-5 years old, depending on the country) they are transferred to institutions. They become no longer adoptable.
So, that's it. That's their life. All because of an extra chromosome.
The thing is -- there isn't a lack of families wanting to adopt children with Down syndrome. It's the financial aspect that holds many families back. (It is very spendy to adopt overseas.) Reece's Rainbow helps raise money for these kids, creating grants for each child to which people can donate.
In December, we sat down with Carter and Rylee at the computer. We opened up the Reece's Rainbow website. We explained that these children didn't have families, and that it cost a lot of money for them to find families. If we sent a child some of our money, we could help them find a family. (Did the best we could explaining to a 6- and 2-year old!)
So, I was hoping Rylee would "connect" with a child's photo -- that in looking at the pictures, she would find a child she was really drawn to -- it would definitely make choosing a child to sponsor easier. (Of course if we could send money to every single child, we would.)
But, in typical Rylee fashion, she pointed to nearly every child, saying, "He's cute." "She's cute." "She's cute." "He's cute."
Not exactly helpful in narrowing things down for me.
So, we settled upon a little boy with whom I share a birthday.
We sent a donation to Reece's Rainbow to be put toward Alexander's grant. At the time of our donation, Reece's Rainbow was thanking donors by sending a Christmas ornament with the child's picture you sponsored on it. A week or so later, we received our ornament.
Beautiful ornament. Even more beautiful little boy.
A reminder that a little boy, oceans away, needs a family.
There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about these kids.
There isn't a day goes by that I don't hear of or run across the blog of a family who has just committed to adopting a child through Reece's Rainbow.
There isn't a day goes by that I don't wish these kids had families to embrace them...