Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Local Support (and a Hug From Santa)


This past Saturday was the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia's annual holiday party. The support system in this area is pretty massive--there are, I believe, upwards of 600 members (not all active participants, but they're generally still in this area) and including parents and siblings, there had to be about 300+ people at the party. One of the most wonderful things about these community gatherings is the chance to see so many BEAUTIFUL, chromosomally-enhanced faces. I remember my trepidation attending my first event (Actually, it was the holiday party when Samantha was 6 months old). Steve, Samantha and I sat pretty much by ourselves, just taking it all in. But I remember being somewhat comforted by what we saw, beautiful people interacting and enjoying themselves. We knew we'd be okay. I'm one of the DSANV's Parent to Parent volunteers, which means that I occasionally speak to new parents of babies with Ds, offering them an ear to bend, a reference source for questions, and a safe haven to voice their stories, their fears and their feelings. I love knowing that I may be able to make a difference to them, and it's so gratifying to see some of these families at the gatherings throughout the year, getting to meet them and their children face-to-face. I'm always so heartened by the sight of them looking relaxed and well-adjusted, talking to other parents and making new friends. This is how it all begins, and how the community is built and grows...and grows...and grows...

But back to Saturday's event, the thing I was looking forward to the most this year was for Samantha to get to see Santa. Every year she does extremely well sitting with Santa and having her photo taken, but this year she's far more aware of who Santa is, and we've been building up the idea of Christmas with her. I was a little bit worried that some latent shyness would kick in when she was confronted by the jolly man in red, but lo and behold, she ran up to him and gave him the biggest, most genuine hug (see photo above)! After having her picture taken, she was reluctant to leave him, and continued trying to go to him afterwards, even when he had another child on his lap. Christmas is not a religious holiday for us. It's about family and tradition, and that warm feeling you get from making other people happy. Samantha's at an age now where tradition will begin to be remembered, and I want to be sure to make those indelible, happy childhood memories for her. I think we're off to a good start.

7 comments:

Dawn said...

That is the best Santa picture I've seen. It looks like it could have come out of a magazine.

Lacey said...

Too cute. Its always nice when they like Santa :)

CJ said...

I adore that picture! She is such a cutie!!

Renee said...

That is a great picture of Samantha with Santa!

I am so glad you are a parent-to-parent volunteer!

Michelle said...

sweet pic!

I'm so jealous of the local support group you guys have! How awesome!

We were sitting at a table with a lady and her 19 yr old son and she said the group had been around even when her son was born...it's amazing to think there was a support group 20 yrs ago and look how strong it is today!

Monica Crumley said...

I was "afraid", too, at my first event to step out and be around these "new faces". Time and LOVE have changed all that for me. I, too, am planning to be a parent-to-parent volunteer. It's already happening just by word of mouth. Anyway, Samantha looks so precious in that photo. Maybe next year Santa will get a hug from John Michael. :-)

RobMonroe said...

Love the photo - and am grateful on behalf of others that you have stepped into the role(s) that you have with the DSANV.