Hayes community supports Down Syndrome Awareness Month

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Photo submitted by Diane Godfrey

Katie Godfrey stands for the national anthem before she cheers on the Pacer football team. Many students who are involved with the transition program also participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

By Mikalah Kostalas, Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The month of October is dedicated to Down syndrome awareness. Down syndrome affects 25% of families in the US (about 1 in 700 children).
Many members of the Hayes community are involved in helping out students in the transition room through peer mentoring, extracurriculars and other city-held events dedicated to supporting them.
“I started here 10 years ago,” transition room teacher Emily Martin said. “Our first year, none of the students in my class were involved in sports. We had one peer in the room.”
As of the 2021-2022 school year, there is currently a waitlist for students to become peer mentors in the transition rooms due to the amount of participation and inclination from the student body.
The Delaware community as a whole has brought on an overwhelming amount of support for these kids and their families.
Members of the community had recently attended the annual Columbus Buddy Walk in Fortress Obetz to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
The Buddy Walk celebrates the families in the Down syndrome community and offers any support imaginable for the parents of newborn babies with Down syndrome.
“It’s very cool to see just how supportive everyone is for our students,” Martin said. “We’ve had Superintendent Kegley at our Buddy Walk. A lot of teachers and staff, even if they can’t go to the walk, will still sign up for the walk and get the t-shirts and wear them. We are a very supportive community and we are lucky in that sense.”
Families from all around the area come together to provide a loving and supporting environment for each other as they celebrate their children with Down syndrome. If a family has a newborn with Down syndrome or is new to the community and needs help with something, Delaware has dozens of families to ask who are more than happy to help wherever it’s needed.
“We’re a family. We’re a community, we all love and support each other,” Martin said. “That’s a perfect display that you know you’re coming into this life and it’s very scary because your credit is different and there’s all these things that could go wrong like heart disease…The people that are here to support you will help you navigate this.”
Alongside their involvement in the Buddy Walk, a couple of girls at Hayes with Down syndrome, such as senior Katie Godfrey and sophomore Katy Uniss, are involved in the Hayes cheerleading program.
Katie is a varsity cheerleader and enjoys cheering on the Hayes football team. Katie describes her high school experience as “awesome” and loves to be called “bulldog” at a game as her classmates cheer her on.
Katie’s mother Diane Godfrey said that her daughter feels supported by other students in these activities. “I love the kids at the high school. [They] have done a fantastic job of including our kids,” Diane said. “The cheerleaders, [they] had taken these girls under [their] wings and just gone with it.”
Katie is also involved in a dance class at Performing Arts Dance Centre and is currently employed at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she manages the students’ meal ID cards during lunchtime.
“They are breaking these barriers and pushing through and proving just what they are capable of,” Martin said.
Delaware and its surrounding cities help in more ways besides the community connection. The Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO) provides an abundance of benefits for the families of people with Down syndrome.
“[They] pay for Chrissy, our provider who has Katie after school and in the morning so that I can work,” Diane said.
The Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD) also provides a large amount of resources and information for community members interested in volunteering or qualifying families who want more information on the benefits they receive in regards to the board.
Although the Delaware community is already supportive, there are always ways that students can get involved with helping.
Hayes students are welcome to grab a peer mentor application from outside the transition rooms so they can work with the students and get closer with them. They can also contact a local affiliate to find more volunteer opportunities within the community.
Another way to help raise money and awareness is by attending the 2022 Buddy Walk, which more than a half a million dollars this year.
The Down syndrome community encourages everyone to educate themselves this month and support the kids and adults who are, according to Katie, “down-right awesome.”

This story was originally published on Hayes Talisman on October 26, 2021.