From Guest Blogger Kari Jones, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio
When the Walk’s Over: The event hangover… and then the rally.
Thank goodness for my DSAIA friends and colleagues who make me feel normal this time of year.
I’ve basically cut off communication to the outside world—all friends, most family, and about everyone who doesn’t need something until AFTER my Walk. The only people I talk to in the weeks leading up to our Walk are my office team, about 200 team captains (WHY DON’T THEY READ THEIR EMAILS EXPLAINING ALL THE THINGS THEY CALL/TEXT/FB MESSAGE/EMAIL ME ABOUT?!), my immediate family, and my Starbucks barista. Oh, and of course my lovely colleagues from around the country who are in the trenches with me, venting about the madness, celebrating the victories, and basking in the glory of another year in the record books. Or maybe just the books. Who cares, it’s over! I’m so exhausted. We’re ALL so.very.exhausted.
But wait, why do I always seem to forget this HUGE thing: The Walk is just the START to Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It’s 31 days filled with programs, events, “have we locked in our World Down Syndrome Day venue yet?”, social media posts, public speaking engagements, “we should really be doing more with employment…”, classroom visits, “I don’t even want to THINK about the 2020 budget yet…”, awareness campaigns, fill-in-the-blank-next-event planning, and really doing everything we can to honor people with Down syndrome, their families, and the community professionals who serve them.
It’s amazing and glorious and tiring and beautiful and rewarding and… so many things. I love it. And you know what? I’m so grateful that I have colleagues that TOTALLY get it. Colleagues that I’ve met at DSAIA conferences, or on Leadership Circle calls, or on a DSAIA committee, or through another member who said, “You really should call so-and-so… they have a great program like what you’re trying to do…”. These incredible people (that’s YOU) make me feel like it’s totally typical to spend my day driving around in a box truck to pick up pumpkins for our Walk (that I KNOW most of the children will leave, painted and rotting, at the Walk...). The ones who validate that it’s totally typical to scream at your computer and hope your Panera delivery guy (who just happened to walk in with your lunch…) didn’t hear you. The ones who can relate to you wanting a job in which you work normal 9-5 hours while simultaneously squealing with glee when the prenatal momma you spoke to last week decides to keep the baby.
How do I really quantify the value that DSAIA brings to me? I imagine it’s like what we hear from new parents who found their local Down syndrome association: They’re so grateful they found us. They can’t imagine life without us. And they’re so, so, so appreciative they’ve found people who “get it.” People who are walking in their shoes.
So, to all of my friends whom I’ve met through DSAIA, the ones who are exhausted and grateful for doing work that we love, rallying through a month of October madness, and genuinely trying to do as much as possible to honor people with Down syndrome while also genuinely wishing it was November already: You can do it-- and I’m so thankful we’re in this together.