Global Down Syndrome Foundation New Membership Grants help employ 32 people with Down syndrome across the country


CINNCINATTI, OH (Feb 27, 2017) – Global Down Syndrome Foundation announced its second year Self-Advocate Employee Initiative Grant winners at the Down Syndrome Affiliate in Action (DSAIA) conference this weekend. Self-Advocate Employee Initiative Grants, a benefit of Global membership, empower local Down syndrome organizations to hire individuals with Down syndrome and help find sustainable funding from other sources in the future. The grants continue to expand their reach in 2017 by assisting eight Down syndrome advocacy groups employ eighteen self-advocates— in 2016 it employed fourteen. The grants will impact communities across America, with first-time winners in Olathe, KS; Omaha, NE; Grand Rapids, MI; and Richmond, VA. Returning recipients are in West Allis, WI; Tiburon, CA; Danville, CA; and Independence, OH. “We are so excited to announce the 2017 winners of the Global Self-Advocate Initiative Grants,” said president and CEO Michelle Sie Whitten. “These local organizations are working so hard to support their families and now they can also show their communities that people with Down syndrome can be productive contributing members of the work force.” The grants will help organizations hire new employees with Down syndrome, or extend employment of existing employees with Down syndrome originally made possible from previous grants that have expired. The variety of jobs self-advocates will be performing include creating social media campaigns, making signing videos, presenting interactive awareness workshops at schools , and performing and supporting administrative duties.

The Up Side of Downs of Northeast Ohio (USOD), a two-time recipient of the grant, will continue to make major strides in providing opportunities for people with Down syndrome. USOD plans to hire a self-advocate as a Retail Associate at Artful 21— USOD’s retail store that features a variety of goods made by artisans with Down syndrome and staffed by self-advocates. There is currently one self-advocate, Jake, employed in the store as a Retail Associate. The grant will help USOD employ both Jake and add another to the staff. After a productive first grant year, Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area (DSCBA) will employ the most self-advocates. Support from Global in 2016 allowed four associates to grow their professional and personal skills.

In 2017 the grant will continue to enable the initial four employees expand their responsibilities:

• In 2016 Eli conducted 22 ability awareness presentations in Bay Area schools reaching more than 1,000 students and nearly 70 adults – throughout different grade levels – who have a classmate with Down syndrome. As the Ability Awareness Associate, Eli’s new tasks will include participating in some DSCBA support groups and supporting the technology portion of his awareness presentations.

• Not only did Marissa become more engaged in her role as an Ambassador, but she became a master of public engagement through PowerPoint presentations and visual cues. In 2017, as the Community Outreach Associate she will create a social media campaign to give her the opportunity to use her voice creatively.

• Gaining more independence in her job tasks is one of the biggest accomplishments K. Leigh gained as the DSCBA Assistant Teacher. K. Leigh’s new tasks include leading circle time with kids, and she will be assigned specific children who she can provide one-on-one support to.

• Joseph, the Administrative Assistant, took initiative in 2016 by seeking assistance when he was stuck on tasks— like preparing mailers and medical outreach packets. As Joseph’s confidence continues to grow in 2017 his focus will include increasing his efficiency and being able to accept coaching from co-workers in a constructive and professional manner. It has been reported that those who have a co-worker with Down syndrome have higher work satisfaction levels; Global Down Syndrome Foundation hopes to spread the positive impact by supporting more people with Down syndrome in the workforce in the coming years through the annual employment initiative grants. Eligibility to win an employee initiative grant is just one of the benefits of Global membership. To learn about other member benefits and to become a member please visit the membership page.

About the Global Down Syndrome Foundation

The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a public nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care, education and advocacy. Formally established in 2009, Global has the primary focus of supporting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, the first academic home in the U.S. committed to research and medical care for people with the condition, and the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the largest multi-disciplinary team in the U.S. providing medical care for people with Down syndrome. Fundraising and government advocacy that corrects the alarming disparity of national funding for people with Down syndrome is a major short-term goal. Global organizes the Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show — the single-largest annual fundraiser benefiting people with Down syndrome. Global organizes and funds many programs and conferences, including the Dare to Play Football Camp with Ed McCaffrey, Global’s Denver Broncos Cheerleaders Dare to Cheer Camp, the Global Down Syndrome Educational Series, and the Dare to Play Soccer Camp. Global is an inclusive organization without political or religious affiliation or intention.