“We will never forget…his smile was the biggest ever; his eyes wide and he looked at us and said, ‘everyone is like me!’ It was worth a million dollars…that look and emotion.”
For Cathy, her husband Jim, and their son Todd, who has Down syndrome, NDSC is not just a resource organization, it is family. Todd was born on January 10, 1979 in a rural community in the northwestern United States. “For us to ‘deal’ with the diagnosis of Down syndrome, we did our research,” shares Cathy. Being from a small community, there weren’t a lot of resources readily available for their family. “NDSC was among the many connections we made and we kept engaged because of the information in their newsletters. It gave us hope and a better understanding of what we were facing.”
The Fullers attended their first NDSC Convention in 1981 in Portland, Oregon. It was informative and “a lot to take in” but in a good way, as Cathy recalls. As Todd grew and entered his twenties, Cathy and her husband decided to bring him to his first NDSC Convention in 2005. As they walked into the hotel, Cathy remembers looking over at Todd and seeing his face so full of joy. “We will never forget…his smile was the biggest ever; his eyes wide and he looked at us and said, ‘everyone is like me!’ It was worth a million dollars…that look and emotion.”
Since then, the Fullers have become regulars at the annual Convention. There is something at the multi-day event for everyone. Cathy describes, “It’s really 3 conventions in one: parents and professionals, young adults, and siblings. The best [for Todd] is the young adults because he gets to be somewhere where everyone is alike in looks. He feels he is where he belongs.” Cathy and her husband enjoy the research sessions and honest conversations held in the panel discussions and throughout the convention. “We have learned a lot from the panel discussions and seminars at the convention. You have other parents to voice your concerns with and see how they handled certain situations. It has given us direction and understanding, goals and ideas.”
Most of all, the Fuller family enjoys the family reunion-feel of the convention. “We look forward to seeing our friends. In fact, great friendships have come about for our family because of NDSC,” says Cathy. This is especially important for Todd, who in a small community, can sometimes have a hard time making friends. “Todd has friends all over the world now. In fact, he had a girlfriend from Costa Rica for a few years (whom he met at the convention). He traveled there to visit, and her family came to Washington to visit. His buddy lives in Florida and he has met friends from Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, California, Alaska, Texas, Arizona and on and on. Facebook has made it so he can keep in contact with them throughout the year.”
Todd, now 37, is described by his family as “very caring and loves to be involved with people.” Todd’s job is the most important thing he does. “He has worked at Albertsons for 19-1/2 years and Starbucks for 9 years. The community loves him and his customers are his friends.” In his spare time, Cathy shares that Todd loves to make a schedule of “concert appearances” all over the world where he will perform. He will then pull out his karaoke machine, where he sings his heart out for each “performance.” Todd is also an active participant in Special Olympics.
NDSC has been there every step of the way for the Fullers on their journey with Down syndrome. When Cathy looks back on the years, she reflects warmly on the support NDSC has provided along the way. “I called many times with questions, especially as a young mother. They always make you feel like you are the only one and that they know you. We love it!”
Do you have a favorite NDSC Convention memory? What was it like to attend your first convention? Share your memories and photos with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.