Global Down Syndrome Foundation Announces Eight Grant Winners At The National Ds Affiliates In Action Conference

Global grants fund a total of 80 jobs for people with Down syndrome in the US and Peru

At DSAIA Leadership Conference; Keynote speaker Zack Gottsagen and Global President & CEO Michelle Sie Whitten with awardees (L-R): Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, Down Syndrome of Louisville, Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut, Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Down Syndrome Association of Delaware (Not Pictured: Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, Down Syndrome Network Arizona, Sociedad Peruana de Sindrome Down)

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Orlando, FL and DENVER, CO February 28, 2020 – Today, Global Down Syndrome Foundation (Global) announced eight new Global Self-Advocate Employment Initiative Grant winners at the national Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action (DSAIA) Annual Leadership Conference.

“We started this grant program in 2016 after attending a DSAIA conference and realized that many Down syndrome organizations cannot afford to employ people with the condition despite advocating for other companies to do so,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, President and CEO of Global. “To address that, we worked with our members on this grant program and we are proud to have supported 80 self-advocates jobs from 20 states and one in Peru! I’m so proud of our team and our members for making this all a reality in such a short time.”

The 2020 winners are: Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut, Down Syndrome Association of Delaware, Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis, Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, Down Syndrome Network (AZ), Down Syndrome of Louisville, and Sociedad Peruana de Sindrome Down (Peru). This year’s Global Self-Advocate Employment Initiative Grants will underwrite self-advocate volunteers transitioning to paid contractors or staff, expansion of hours for self-advocate staff, work-place training, and public speaking training.

Past winners appreciate that Global’s grants can be multi-year, and that many grants have led to leveraged funding.

“Our organization is dedicated to helping our adults with Down syndrome develop vocational and professional skills. We have been fortunate to earn more than one of Global’s transformative employment grants, allowing us to train, prepare, and hire self-advocates for employment especially in our hospital clinic,” says Lauren Camp Gates, Executive Director of Down Syndrome Association of Delaware.

Erin Suelmann, Executive Director of Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis agrees, “Global has helped us expand our ‘Ready to Work Employment Initiative’ programs. In 2018, Global’s grant empowered us to hire an Employment Assistant Ambassador and now we have on-going funding for that position. This year we are so grateful for another grant to grow our staff and hire a Peer Trainer for Social Enterprise.”

2020 grant winners received their award certificates from Whitten and DSAIA conference keynote speaker, Zack Gottsagen. Gottsagen, who starred in the award-winning hit indie film, The Peanut Butter Falcon, is an example of a hardworking individual with Down syndrome excelling in his career. Whitten is an executive producer of The Peanut Butter Falcon and led Global Members in marketing initiatives to ensure the film’s distribution success.

“I wanted to act from the time I was three,” said Gottsagen. “My mom listened to me so I took acting lessons for years. Then two acting coaches wrote a film for me to star in and I won awards for my acting at SXSW and Palm Springs Film Festivals. I showed up, worked hard, got this big break, and presented at the Oscars. It is important that parents and organizations have high expectations and provide training to children and adults with Down syndrome.”

Global membership benefits include supporting life-saving and transformative initiatives, Global’s award-winning magazine Down Syndrome WorldTM, Down syndrome expert webinars, and two first-in-kind grant programs – Global Membership Educational Grants and Global Membership Self-Advocate Employment Initiative Grants. To become a Global Down Syndrome Foundation member or to learn more about member benefits, visit:

About Global Down Syndrome Foundation

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation (Global) is the largest non-profit in the U.S. working to save lives and dramatically improve health outcomes for people with Down syndrome. Global has donated more than $32 million to establish the first Down syndrome research institute supporting over 400 scientists and over 2,000 patients with Down syndrome from 28 states and 10 countries. Working closely with Congress and the National Institutes of Health, Global is the lead advocacy organization in the U.S. for Down syndrome research and care. Global has a membership of over 100 Down syndrome organizations worldwide, and is part of a network of Affiliates – the Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the Sie Center for Down Syndrome, and the University of Colorado Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center – all on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Global’s widely-circulated medical publications include Global Medical Care Guidelines for Adults with Down Syndrome, Prenatal Testing and Information about Down Syndrome, and the award-winning magazine Down Syndrome WorldTM. Global also organizes the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, the largest Down syndrome fundraiser in the world. Visit and follow us on social media (facebook & twitter:@GDSFoundation)(instagram:@globaldownsyndrome).

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