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Nonprofit spotlight: Upside Downs helps those with Down syndrome and their families
The Courier - 2/2/2021
Feb. 3—Upside Downs, Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to helping the Down syndrome community through new parent support, recreational activities, raising awareness and advocating for a brighter future.
It is affiliated with the National Down Syndrome Society and the National Down Syndrome Congress, with the goal of promoting the "upside" and positive aspects of people with Down syndrome and furthering the belief that anything is possible with Down syndrome.
We asked co-founders Beau and Michelle Brooks to tell us about their group and its goals, here are the edited answers to their questions.
What specific services do you provide?
We host various events throughout the year, most notably The Magical Dance Party in the fall and the 321 Dash to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day each year on March 21. We also provide new parent support by giving a welcome basket to all new parents of those born with Down syndrome. Also, we provide scholarships to both Nicholls State and University of Louisiana at Lafayette for students enrolled in the programs for those with Down syndrome.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the people you serve?
Absolutely! During the pandemic, we were unable to provide our usual services by hosting events.
A couple of years ago, we gave a basket to a sweet mom and dad as they had just delivered a baby boy who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Unfortunately, sweet baby Owen never left the hospital and passed away when he was one month old. In his honor, we created a program where we provide a music or horse therapy scholarship in Owen's name. Fast-forward to 2020 during the pandemic, this sweet family was camping in Mississippi when they met an older gentleman with Down syndrome who was there with his family. The families stayed in contact with each other and when they needed help when their house caught on fire, Owen's parents reached out and asked if Upside Downs could help them out. Although this is not a typical service provided by Upside Downs, it meant the world to a family who needed our help at the time.
How are your services needed now compared to before the pandemic?
We typically host up to 500 people at our Magical Dance Party where kids and young adults with Down syndrome are able to dance and play. Moreover, their parents have this opportunity to connect to other parents for moral support. Last year was our annual 321 Dash where we had over 1,000 people registered to race. At the race, we were having numerous activities and that had to be canceled due to COVID. We plan to host this event this year but do it virtually again.
What are the qualifications someone needs to meet to receive your services?
Someone must be diagnosed with Down syndrome or have a child diagnosed with Down syndrome. We also welcome families with other special needs, too.
How can someone apply?
There is no application process. One can just follow us on Facebook or Instagram or send us an email, at email@example.com. Visit our website at upside-downs.org.
What is your annual budget? Where does the money come from?
The annual budget is approximately $100,000. People can donate via social media or our website via the donate feature. Our Board of Directors are not paid. We have hundreds of volunteers who have helped out over the years.
What is your organization's greatest need? Have those needs changed since the pandemic began? If so, in what way?
Our greatest need is money. We have so many volunteers who are always willing to help. We hope one day we can break ground on property to build a center for those with Down syndrome to work and gather.
How can people donate?
The best way to donate is money so we can provide the support we need. However, if someone prefers to donate goods instead, we can email them a list of items we like to include in our baskets, such as diapers, books and other favorite gifts.
What is the greatest reward volunteers receive in exchange for their time?
Our volunteers tell us time and time again how much love they get out of participating in our events. The excitement that the kids with Down syndrome have with their families is priceless.
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