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Charlotte Blacks with Down syndrome launch first back to school event

Kathryn and Christian
Kathryn and Christian
Kathryn Lariviere

The African American Outreach, (AAO), a group under the umbrella of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte, gathered for a Back to School event held at Hornet’s Nest Park, in West Charlotte, last Saturday, Aug. 16th. The inaugural celebration, hosted by AAO organizers, Jeannette Little and Sybil Gaines, attracted over 60 participants including 20 with Down syndrome, ages, six months to 30 years, and family members.

Nigel Smith, of Mr. Nigel & Friends Entertainment, amused and involved everyone with his bongos, guitar, a racing game and dancing that lit up the faces and smiles of those with DS and those without who constantly seek happiness for their loved ones.

“The AAO strives to provide opportunities for African Americans with Down syndrome to achieve their greatest potential. Our desire is to encourage socialization skills for our children and adults and to provide networking and informative opportunities for parents,” said Little.

Kathryn Lariviere, DSAGC executive director provided information about the Carolinas Down Syndrome Conference, September 26th and 27th, at Hilton Charlotte University Place and Charlotte’s Buddy Walk, October 11th, at Jerry Richardson Football Stadium, UNC-Charlotte. The conference targets teachers and therapists on Friday while the next day caters to teens/adults with DS and their siblings.

“People shy away from organizations that don’t resemble themselves and when Jeannette stepped up to lead and organize an African American group, I was so thrilled. We need to get information and available services to all individuals with Down syndrome. The camaraderie is especially important,” said Lairviere.

Donations included an IKEA Swedish Food Market basket for raffle, Target supplied school supplies, Wal-Mart donated food, Compare Foods provided beverages and snacks, Home Depot, BI-LO Grocers, Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s. supported with gift cards.

Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8 or 9 year old child, but this varies widely.

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