The Greatest Legacy of President George H.W. Bush
By Kayla Johnson
Over the past several days, Americans have paused to remember our 41st U.S. president, George H.W. Bush.
Following his death on November 30, the news was filled with reminders of his dedication as a public servant. As vice president and president, he helped guide our country out of the cold war. During World War II, he was an aviator in the Pacific theater and survived being shot down by Japanese gunners.
Plus, all of us have seen the many photos portraying his humanity as a devoted husband, father and grandfather to a large and loving family.
While I honor and remember him for all of these things, it was the union of the two great loves of his life – service to his country and love of family – that became his greatest legacy. That occurred when he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law on July 26, 1990. He had supported the monumental legislation as it made its way through Congress and is credited with ensuring its eventual passage.
Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation designed to prohibit discrimination and guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. It opened doors to employment opportunities, requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations.
This legislation changed everything, not just for those with disabilities, but for all of us.
When President Bush signed the ADA into law on that third week after Independence Day nearly 30 years ago, he did so with a great sense of enthusiasm and ceremony. While I’m sure he was confident it would be an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities, I also believe his passion was genuine as he shared these words at the bill’s signing:
“I now lift my pen to sign this Americans with Disabilities Act and say: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
President Bush went on to champion, and then sign the IDEA Act in October 1990, which provides children with disabilities the same opportunities for education as those students who do not have a disability. His actions directly influenced the passage of the ABLE Act in 2014, which created tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities; and H.R. 188, also known as the TIME Act, which was introduced in 2015. This legislation proposes phasing out a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act which allows “sub-minimum wage” compensation for work by people with different abilities.
While our work is ongoing, the lawful beginnings are notably attributed to President George H. W. Bush and for him, we are thankful.
Certainly, the ADA declared new opportunities for the differently-abled to be independent, but could we have imagined how it would benefit everyone? From that day forward, the word “inclusion” would become part of our vocabulary, our building codes, our hiring practices and our general thoughts.
The often unspoken rift that had long kept those with disabilities from sharing spaces, workplaces and experiences that everyone else takes for granted was dissolving. It would not be an immediate transition or an easy one for some, but little by little the ADA changed our culture and our mindsets. People who had been considered invisible or hindered by convention and physical obstacles were now recognized as the productive, enthusiastic, capable individuals that they are and were finally given the full rights of citizenship afforded to every other American.
As executive director of the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society, I see the fruits of the ADA each day in the eyes and on the faces of those whose lives have been changed for the better because of President George H.W. Bush’s act love.
With the deepest appreciation now and always,
13th Annual Buddy Walk Hosted by the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Returns with a Healthy Twist on October 6
Individuals of all ages and abilities — and their pets — are invited, especially those in wheelchairs, carriages and strollers.
Last year’s event drew more than 5,000 people, and LDSS officials said they hope to attract even more to this year’s walk to support individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
“We hold the Buddy Walk every year in October as part of National Down Syndrome Awareness month,” said Tom Kenkel, president of LDSS. “Our primary goal, however, is to make positive changes in local and national policies regarding Down syndrome. This event does a phenomenal job of helping us do just that.”
A new element this year will be a focus on healthy lifestyles, Kenkel said.
According to research studies in the US Library of Medicine, children with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for obesity. This could be due in part to physiological expressions of Down syndrome but also to common environmental factors.
With that in mind, LDSS, with participation from Healthy Savannah, Coca Cola, NLAWS Produce and EmployAbility, will provide more nutritious lunch options and additional health education during the event.
“We are taking small steps to eventually host the first Buddy Walk in the country that brings attention to healthy lifestyles as part of the event,” Kenkel said.
A festival following the walk will feature face painting, pumpkin painting, the BOO Boutique, bouncy houses, games, music, refreshments and the Border Pawtrol disc dog team.
The walk begins at 10:00 a.m., and the festivities will conclude at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets for the walk will be $15 apiece or $50 for a family of four. Registration includes a T-shirt, lunch and admission to the family fun festival.
Sponsors of the 2018 Buddy Walk include NLaws Produce, Joe Marchese Construction, Marlow Elementary School, Coca-Cola and Holton Plumbing. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Information booths can be reserved for any organization that provides services for the differently abled community.
ABOUT THE LOWCOUNTRY DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a family support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, outreach, education and advocacy to champion and celebrate acceptance and inclusion. Meetings are held every fourth Tuesday of the month, typically with a guest speaker and social time for families to meet and interact with one another. LDSS encourages people to bring their children. LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society. For more information about LDSS, visit http://www.ldssga.org/
9th Annual Night of Champions Honors Differently-abled Working Adults and Their Employers
(SAVANNAH, GA) Six “Champions” and their employers were recognized at the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s ninth annual Night of Champions held at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. This year’s theme was designated as “Legacy” to call on the community to design a legacy for the inclusion of differently-abled people.
Night of Champions recognized local businesses that hire and retain differently-abled people, including those with Down syndrome, and the contributions made by these employees who are designated as Champions.
Selected from among 15 nominees, six “Champions” and their employers were honored:
Tukes, a greeter and custodian at Pooler Karate, is always on time and ready to give students a fist bump. Before students arrive, Tukes waters the plants, cleans the windows and helps with anything needed to prepare for the day before he takes his place to open the door for customers with his ever-present smile. Fellow employees have commented that it makes them feel cared about when Tukes asks them about their well-being. His positive presence also has provided insight into caring for children with different abilities who take lessons at the studio.
Hudson is a kitchen assistant at Back in The Day Bakery, and his supervisor has nick-named him Herbie the Lovebug for the compassion he shows for his fellow employees as he works to keep the kitchen running smoothly.
Brown, a courtesy clerk at Kroger, is known for her integrity, respect and incredible diligence. She lives in her own apartment, maintains a healthy lifestyle and rides her tricycle to work. Brown stays busy swimming, bowling, weight-lifting and staying involved on Tybee Island through activities with The Coastal Mermaid & Pirate Club.
Smith is a utility and kitchen assistant at SCAD’s Byte Café, a branch of Bon Appetit Catering. He works to keep the café clean and well stocked, is known as one of its hardest workers and has impressed his supervisors with his willingness to take on new challenges. He helps train new employees and has come out of his shell, befriending not only co-workers but also SCAD students and staff.
Weathers is a file clerk who has done so well that Grainger Honda and Nissan have hired six more individuals with different abilities. Weathers is known as a day-brightener whose fellow employees enjoy the days she sings while she works.
Campbell works in guest services at Zaxby’s in Beaufort, S.C., where she delivers orders, cleans the restaurant and greets customers, making every customer feel valued as she asks about their days. Campbell says her day is always perfect.
A special recognition called “Message in Motion,” awarded to employers who have attended Night of Champions in the past and were motivated by the event to hire differently-abled employees, was given to Carson Fortner of Pooler Karate for the opportunity he has given Jabari Tukes.
“Night of Champions is an inspiring event for professional recognition of those individuals who exceed expectations while overcoming perceived barriers to employment. Attendees love returning every year, and our sponsors allow us to host Past Champions for free,” says Tom Kenkel, the 2018 Night of Champions co-chairman. “Roughly 800 guests attended this year thanks in part to a larger venue that accommodates the event’s growing popularity and attendance.”
Sara Hart Weir, the president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), and Kandi Pickard, first vice president of NDSS, attended the event. Celebrity chef and author Jamie Deen served as the emcee alongside Allyson Harvin.
MORE ABOUT THE LOWCOUNTRY DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a family support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, outreach, education, and advocacy to champion and celebrate acceptance and inclusion. Meetings are held every 4th Tuesday of the month, typically with a guest speaker and social time for families to meet and interact with one another. LDSS encourages people to bring their children. LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society. For more information about LDSS, visit http://www.ldssga.org/
President, Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society
Join the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society in Wearing Mismatched Socks for World Down Syndrome Day and St. Patrick’s Day
By Joe Marchese
My daughter, Ella, loves to celebrate. She considers everyone a friend and I don’t think I’ve ever met a better dancer. In addition to her outgoing and loving personality, she also has an extra copy of her 21st chromosome pair (TRISOMY 21. 3-21), more commonly known as Down Syndrome.
Some may consider Ella to have a disability. At the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS), we see her as having different abilities and realize that all people are uniquely created and bring different contributions to the world.
Wednesday, March 21st (3/21) is World Down Syndrome Day. As part of that day, I would like to personally invite you to join us in celebrating the fact that “We are all different…that’s what makes us the same.”
On Saturday, March 17th, our beautiful hostess city, Savannah, will be focused on St. Patricks Day. The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society will once again have a float in the parade and we will all be wearing mismatched socks to show that being different is a good thing and to make people aware of the upcoming World Down Syndrome Day.
Please help us to celebrate by:
• Wearing mismatched socks on March 17th and on March 21st and explain to anyone who notices that we appreciate and celebrate differently abled individuals and how their differences make the world a better place.
• Posting a picture of your socks to your facebook page. Tag the photo using #LDSS, #differentabilities, #WorldDownSyndromeDay.
• Challenging two friends to join in the fun.
These simple, small steps can change our community and the world!
We rely on individual donations from people just like you to support the events we hold through the year, such as the Night of Champions, where we honor employers and their employees with different abilities, and the Buddy Walk, that raises awareness of the unlimited potential of all people. In recognition of World Down Syndrome day, we are also collecting $2.00 donations, one for each mismatched sock, or any other amount at www.ldssga.org.
For those of you unfamiliar with what we do. The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society is a support group to benefit local people with Down Syndrome and their families through leadership in support, outreach, education and advocacy. We envision a world in which all people with different abilities have the opportunity to create their own path in order to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of a welcoming community.
As I always say, I hope that Savannah will become known as the “most inclusive city in the United States.” Maybe a pair of mismatched socks can help spread that message. I hope you ‘ll join me.
Please stop me and say hello on St. Patricks Day; I’ll be the guy wearing the striped and polka dot socks. So roll up your pant legs and join in the fun.
LDSS Calls for Nominations for the 9th Annual Night of Champions
(SAVANNAH, GA) The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is requesting nominations for its 9th Annual Night of Champions to be held this May. The event seeks to recognize Savannah area employees who are differently-abled and excel in their workplace, with an additional acknowledgment of the employers who have given them the opportunity to work.
“Night of Champions celebrates employees and their employers whose dedication and leadership shines a light on the possibilities and benefits of inclusive communities and workspaces,” said Night of Champions Chairperson, Tom Kenkel.
Employee nominations can be submitted online at nightofchampions.org until Friday, April 13.
The selected employees and their employers will be invited as special guests to the Night of Champions dinner, which will take place at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.
In addition to dinner, the evening will include a recognition ceremony, a silent auction and a cash bar, with Jamie Deen and Allyson Harvin serving as the night’s emcees. Business professional attire is requested.
Individual tickets are $50, and tables of ten can be reserved for $500 at nightofchampions.org.
ABOUT THE LOWCOUNTRY DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, support, outreach, education and advocacy. Meetings are held every fourth Tuesday of the month, typically with a guest speaker and social time for families to meet and interact. LDSS encourages the whole family to attend; children of all ages are welcome. LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society. For more information about LDSS, visit ldssga.org
Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center Select Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Joe Marchese and WSAV’s Ariella Scalese as Emcees for the 2018 Hearts for Healing Gala on Feb. 9
(SAVANNAH, GA) Joe Marchese, immediate past president of the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) in Savannah, and Ariella Scalese, forecaster for the WSAV Storm Team 3, have been chosen as the emcees for the Hearts for Healing Gala to benefit Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center. The second annual event will be held on Friday, Feb. 9, at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel.
Faith Equestrian is a non-profit organization founded to improve the quality of life for children with special needs through therapeutic interaction with horses at the center.
Marchese, who has years of experience in the differently abled community, will help guide the night’s activities, which include dinner, dancing, a silent auction and live music from the John Brackett Quartet.
“I am humbled and honored to be presented with this opportunity,” said Marchese. “As a founding board member of the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society, and as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome I have been exposed to the emotional and cognitive challenges faced by children with different abilities and I love what a difference that Faith Equestrian makes in their lives.”
Scalese graduated from Lehigh University, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Earth and Environmental Science and minored in Mass Communication before coming to Savannah to continue her career in broadcasting. Scalese volunteers for a number of organizations including Faith Equestrian.
“Since moving here in 2016, I made it a goal to find local organizations that I’m passionate about and donating my time to them,” said Scalese. “Faith Equestrian has given me so much more than I could ever give to it, and I’m honored to be named an emcee for their annual gala.”
Faith Equestrian serves children with all types of challenges, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. Interaction with the horses allows the students to build strength, develop coordination skills and gain confidence in an outdoor and supportive setting.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the silent auction; the reception will begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $150 and may be purchased at http://www.faithetc.org/hearts-for-healing-gala/.
The 2018 Hearts for Healing Gala is sponsored by Savannah Special Events by Ranco, First City Events, Low Country Paper Co., Whitemarsh Beverage, J Thomas Catering, Savannah’s Hall of Cakes, South Magazine and Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
MORE ABOUT THE LOWCOUNTRY DOWN SYNDROME SOCIETY
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a family support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, outreach, education and advocacy to champion and celebrate acceptance and inclusion. Meetings are held every fourth Tuesday of the month, typically with a guest speaker and social time for families to meet and interact. LDSS encourages people to bring their children to all of their meetings. LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society. For more information about LDSS, visit http://www.ldssga.org/
ABOUT FAITH EQUESTRIAN THERAPEUTIC CENTER
Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, 243 Appaloosa Way in Guyton, GA. 31312, exists to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through the power of the horse. The program serves children ages 4 to 18 with all types of challenges, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. The center offers therapeutic riding courses and an equestrian program in partnership with local schools. For more information, visit https://faithetc.org
Five Ways to Make Holidays Happier for Children with Different Abilities
By Dr. Ben Spitalnick, Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society, Board of Directors
Every parent wants the holiday season to be a special, joyous time for their child, and parents of children with different abilities or special needs usually have to take a couple of extra steps to ensure the holidays are just that.
To help along the way, the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society offers five tips to help make the holiday season run smoothly and keep your kids happy.
1. Prepare Your Child
Your child wants to know the plans for the holiday season as much as you do. To reduce stress and prepare your child for upcoming activities, explain what you’ll be doing, who will be there and what the schedule is for the day. Write down the schedule for them and include pictures.
2. Prepare Your Family
Remind your family of the needs of your child. If there are other little ones, ask their parents to talk to them about your child’s differences. This can help reduce confusion and will foster a sense of understanding. It might help, a few days before everyone gets together, to send family members an informational email with 10 things to know about your child.
3. Bring Familiar Toys
The holidays are a chaotic time. Familiarity will help your child remain calm and feel comfortable. Bring his or her favorite toy, book or something that soothes your child at home. When things get a little too crazy, that may help your child feel comfortable.
4. Ask For Help
Don’t feel guilty for asking for help. Every parent needs help, and you do too. Explain the needs of your child to another family member or two and ask them to step in when you need a break. Explain to your child, too, that this person will be playing with them or watching them for a few minutes while you are busy.
5. Let Your Child Help
Preparing for the holidays can be stressful, but if you let your child help, you can create family traditions and keep everyone a little happier. Give your child a task such as greeting everyone at the door or stirring the sauce. This will keep your child focused, reduce his or her stress levels and give you an extra hand.
To create a happier time of celebration, we encourage all parents of children with different abilities to prepare their little ones a bit extra this holiday season. These small proactive measures can do a lot to help your child adjust to large crowds, new situations and days off-schedule. We hope this will make your holiday season a little jollier.
Dr. Ben Spitalnick is managing partner of Pediatric Associates of Savannah and currently serves as Representative for the Savannah area to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Spitalnick is from North Atlanta and is a graduate of the University of Georgia, received his medical degree from MCG, and did his Pediatric Residency at Memorial Health University here in Savannah. He serves on the board of directors for the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society.