The Centre Region Down Syndrome Society isn’t letting the coronavirus get in the way of raising awareness for its cause.
The CRDSS’s main goal as an organization is to spread awareness and comfort across the community about Down syndrome, according to CRDSS Executive Director Heather House.
“It’s really important for the next person who receives their child’s diagnosis to know that Down syndrome is not a scary thing and that the people in our lives who have Down syndrome are worth celebrating,” House said.
On March 21, the organization celebrated World Down Syndrome Day, a day founded by the United Nations in 2012.
The annual celebration takes place on the 21st day of the third month of the year, signifying the unique triplication of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
The CRDSS held a virtual “321 Dance Party” via Zoom to celebrate while showing off their mismatched socks — a tradition that seeks to grab peoples’ attention and start a conversation about Down syndrome, according to House.
The socks were chosen as a symbolic gesture of Down syndrome because the karyotype of the chromosomes resemble the shape of socks.
House said the organization strives to bring the Centre County community together through its work.
“Getting together is by far the most powerful thing we do as an organization. It’s so important for the parents to network and the kids to network with each other,” House said.
Last year’s 321 Dance Party was one of the first events the organization had to host virtually due to the coronavirus, according to House, and this year’s celebration will be the second time it’s hosted over Zoom.
“The Down syndrome population is vulnerable when it comes to [coronavirus] — the outcomes for adults with Down syndrome are very poor — so even though people are starting to get together again, we’re going to hold off a little longer,” House said.
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House added that the dance serves as a way to talk about what the organization is doing and allow members to get more connected to each other after a year of isolation.
“On average, once a month we get together and that’s really missing… so we hope to provide an opportunity for some connection and fun,” House said.
The 321 Dance was led by CRDSS Vice President Katie Feliz, who has been teaching dance in Centre County for about 13 years.
“We’re sort of making it into a line dance, something that’s easily learned and repeatable for years to come,” Feliz said.
Out of all the Zoom events the CRDSS has held since the start of the pandemic, Feliz said this celebration is a big part of what the organization is all about.
“People with Down syndrome love to dance as much as people without Down syndrome, so it’s usually a really well attended and energetic event and we’re just trying to capture some of that energy,” Feliz said.
Feliz was not alone in instructing the dance, however. CRDSS member, Jackson Lippincott, 18, was next to Feliz on Sunday helping other dancers learn the moves. For Lippincott, the day gives him a chance to dance with his friends.
Lippincott said while Down syndrome makes him different, he believes everyone is different in their own way.
“Some people have long hair, some people have short hair, some have blue eyes and some have brown eyes and some people have Down syndrome,” Lippincott said via email. “Everyone is different. But we’re all people.”