Convention History and Awards
The NDSC Annual Convention brings together scores of internationally known speakers, both professionals and parents, to address the concerns of all people interested in Down syndrome. Traditionally, the convention has been set up as plenary sessions addressing general topics with specific issues addressed in workshops. Over the years, the convention has grown and changed and now offers a variety of opportunities for all ages, interests, and associations. The Annual Convention is also the platform to recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding achievement within the Down syndrome community.
Nominations may be submitted by any person or organization wishing to direct the attention of the NDSC Board of Directors to outstanding achievement. In its selection, the Board of Directors will not necessarily be restricted to those programs or individuals but may consider reports of outstanding achievement from other sources and may, on its own initiative, select award recipients.
- Reach and/or longevity of the nominee’s work: Does the work of the nominee have a local, state and/or national impact, and how long have they been doing the activity (ies) for which they are nominated?
- Image of Individuals with Down syndrome: Does the program, publication, or individual promote a positive image of people with Down syndrome?
- Significance of Contributions: Does the nominee’s work address or advance areas of concern to the Down syndrome community such as medical, education, employment, independence, etc? Does the nominee’s work recognize the value of the person with Down syndrome?
- Connection with the Down syndrome community: Does the work of the nominee support or advance efforts of the Down syndrome community, that may include the work of NDSC?
Items to consider including within your nomination:
- Focus on abilities: Does the nominee accentuate abilities, not disability?
- Focus on individuals: Does the program focus on people, not the condition of Down syndrome?
- Celebrate diversity: Does the individual or program celebrate diversity?
- People-first language: Is the nomination written using people-first language? Does the nomination emphasize the person, not the disability?
- Enhance dignity of people: Does the nominee enhance the dignity of people with Down syndrome?
- Avoid stereotyping: Does the nomination avoid stereotyping?
- Information accuracy: Does the nomination present accurate information?
Nominations and supporting materials should be submitted through the online form by January 15, 2024. Selections are made by the Awards Committee and notified March 22, 2024. All awards will be presented at the NDSC Annual Convention.
Exceptional Meritorious Service Award
This award recognizes an individual whose service and contributions to people with Down syndrome and their families have had local, state, and national significance.
Employer of the Year Award
This award recognizes an employer for efforts in creating employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome.
Christian Pueschel Memorial Citizen Award
This award recognizes an individual with Down syndrome whose achievements, service, and contributions have enhanced the value and dignity of people with Down syndrome and their families.
Sig Pueschel NDSC Service Award
This award recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding contributions to the NDSC.
National Affiliate Group Award
This award recognizes an affiliate group of the NDSC, which has performed outstanding service on behalf of people with Down syndrome and their families. Affiliate groups will be judged on advocacy services, relationship to the NDSC, support to families, fundraising activities and local and regional programs and services and community activities.
Pueschel/Tjossem Memorial Research Award
This award recognizes research, which has contributed to greater knowledge and understanding of Down syndrome and has improved the lives of people with Down syndrome or their families.
National Media Award
This award honors outstanding national media efforts, which create a better understanding of Down syndrome and people with Down syndrome. The award recognizes programs on television, documentaries, feature films, national publications, serials, syndicated columns, and social media. National Media Awards may be presented for the categories of film, print, and online. The media efforts must have been broadcast or published within the last calendar year.
Social Connection Award
This award honors outstanding use of social media to connect the Down syndrome community and/or create a better understanding of Down syndrome and people with Down syndrome. The award recognizes programs utilizing various social media platforms and approaches such as podcasts, Tik Tok, etc. The media efforts have been broadcast or published within the last calendar year.
This award recognizes outstanding performance on behalf of students with Down syndrome. Nominees will be judged by their demonstrated leadership and innovation in creating or advancing best educational practices for students with Down syndrome.
2023 Orlando, FL “Dreams Do Come True”
2022 New Orleans, LA “Lagniappe in the Big Easy”, our 50th celebration
2021 In-person canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic, virtual “Brand New Day”
2020 In-person canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic, virtual “Convention From Your Couch”
2019 Pittsburgh, PA “Rivers of Opportunity”
2018 Dallas, TX “Reach for Your Star”
2017 Sacramento, CA “Livin’ the Dream”
2016 Orlando, FL “Imagine the Possibilities”
2015 Phoenix, AZ “Beyond All Limits”
2014 Indianapolis, IN “Setting the Pace”
2013 Denver, CO “Taking Our Convention a Mile High”
2012 Washington, DC “A Monumental Meeting”
2011 San Antonio, TX “Deep In The Heart”
2010 Orlando, FL “Magic Moments”
2009 Sacramento, CA “Golden Dreams”
2008 Boston, MA “We’re More Alike Than Different”
2007 Kansas City, MO “Show Me the Possibilities”
2006 Atlanta, GA “Open Possibilities”
2005 Anaheim, CA “Golden Opportunities”
2004 Minneapolis, MN “Boundless Horizons”
2003 Philadelphia, PA “Families, Friends, Freedom”
2002 Denver, CO “Set Your Sights A Mile High”
2001 Cancelled due to 9/11
2000 Washington, DC “Celebrating Rights, Liberty and Justice for ALL People”
1999 Pittsburgh, PA “Bridges to Dreams”
1998 Dallas, TX “Trail Blazin..Creating New Frontiers”
1997 Phoenix, AZ “Creating the Vision for the Next Twenty Five Years”
1996 Miami Beach, FL “Bridges to A Bright Future”
1995 Washington, DC “Together We Can Make A Difference”
1994 Minneapolis, MN “Join Together..Make the Vision A Reality”
1993 Anaheim, CA “Follow the Dream…Catch the Vision”
1992 Atlanta, GA “See the Potential”
1991 Boston, MA “Continuing the Revolution”
1990 Memphis, TN “Toward Independence”
1989 Denver, CO “Set Your Sights A Mile High”
1988 Cincinnati, OH “In the Mainstream”
1987 Washington, DC “A Capital Event”
1986 Wichita, KS “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”
1985 Anaheim, CA “Coming Home”
1984 San Antonio, TX
1983 Providence, RI
1982 Chicago, IL “The Challenges of Down Syndrome”
1981 Portland, OR “Rising Expectations”
1980 St. Louis, MO “The Eighties…A New Decade”
1979 Atlanta, GA “Focus on Progress”
1978 Boston, MA “Down Syndrome…It’s Time to Understand”
1977 New Orleans, LA “Speaking Up for Down’s, Parent-Professional Communication”
1976 Indianapolis, IN “Future for Down’s Syndrome”
1975 Las Vegas, NV “Down’s Syndrome Today…Vital Issues”
1974 Washington, DC
1973 Anaheim, CA “Down’s Syndrome: Research, Prevention and Treatment”
The NDSC has been involved in other special conferences over the years both nationally and internationally. The NDSC initiated the first international Down Syndrome Conference in 1981. Since that time, international conferences have been held in Mexico, England, Israel, the United States, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Canada and South Africa, and India.
Where in the world will the NDSC Convention meet next?
Just how does the NDSC choose a particular city to host the world’s largest meeting for the Down syndrome community each year? When will the convention come to my town? These are questions we answer quite often…and the answer? It’s complicated! The convention host city is determined by a variety of factors, including geographic rotation, venue availability, affiliate support, sleeping room rates, and more.
Keep in mind, people with Down syndrome live all over the country, not just destination markets like Boston, Washington, DC, and Southern California. As a service organization, the NDSC takes pride in rotating the “Super Bowl” of conventions geographically around the country. This allows families of all backgrounds better access to the world’s leading experts on Down syndrome, sometimes in their own backyards. Sure, many attendees build their summer vacation around our convention each year – but attendance is really driven by families who live in the region of the country where we hold the event.
Once a region is identified, venues are solicited. For the past 20 years or so, the NDSC has hosted the convention during the summer, when children are typically out of school. That window gets smaller each year, as school districts in some parts of the country don’t break until mid-June, while other school districts start their new year in early August. The week of July 4th isn’t particularly good timing for conventions either, so we have to remove that week from the mix, too.
The ideal convention venue is a single hotel, with more than 1,000 sleeping rooms and over 150,000 square feet of meeting space. When we have to use a convention center or multiple hotels it drives up the cost and makes it more difficult for families to navigate. Our convention is essentially four conferences taking place simultaneously.
- The General Conference requires a ballroom that will fit 2,000+ people theater-style, an exhibit area large enough for 120 tabletop exhibitors, and 18 breakout rooms that can hold a minimum of 100 chairs theater-style.
- The Youth & Adults Conference requires a large ballroom that can be divided into two halves and can hold 250 people at banquet-style tables in each room. We also need at least six breakout rooms for Y&A, ideally on the same floor as the ballroom. This space must also be close to restrooms, but preferably away from exit doors, elevators and stairwells. Safety is the NDSC’s number one priority when planning the Youth & Adults Conference space.
- The Siblings Conference and Kids’ Camp require an additional 10 breakout rooms with their own unique specifications.
- Additionally, we partner with the medical professionals who comprise DSMIG-USA, the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group, who like to meet in conjunction with our convention.
After venues are considered, we reach out to the local NDSC affiliate parent organization. No brainer – right? Wrong! Many local affiliates struggle with meeting their every day goals and initiatives, so when the NDSC calls and asks how they feel about recruiting 500 volunteers and helping secure sponsorships, they aren’t always able to commit. Thankfully, most affiliates are up for the challenge. We expand the reach to affiliates from all over the state to help fill the Convention Support Committee roles and responsibilities.
Why so many volunteers you ask? Again, it’s complicated! Volunteers are the key to pulling off a successful convention weekend for the more than 3,500 participants. Key roles like manning the registration table, stuffing tote bags, checking in volunteers, hosting workshop rooms, and collecting evaluations are just a few areas of need. The largest number of volunteers are needed to support the Youth & Adults Conference and Kids’ Camp, each requiring more than 100 people daily. Both of these run much more smoothly when volunteers have experience working with people with Down syndrome and are able to volunteer for multiple days. (The NDSC volunteer coordinator works side-by-side with the local volunteer committee to ensure all volunteers are recruited, confirmed, and trained in time for the convention.)
Site Negotiations and Logistics
Next on the list is negotiating a sleeping room rate, with a goal of staying under $170. This isn’t an easy task. Most large hotels are only able to meet this request in their off-season or non-peak months (hence Phoenix in June). Many resort hotel’s rack sleeping room rate is $339 or more. Our convention rate is more than 50% less than that. When you couple that savings with ideal meeting space, that venue gets a high rating on our list.
We also consider the ease and availability of transportation options, proximity to the airport, and local amenities, like restaurants, shopping, and attractions. It’s also nice to have free or low-cost parking, affordable Wi-Fi connections, and refrigerators in sleeping rooms. Downtown vs. suburbs, number of non-stop flights, affordable food and beverage options, area attractions…oh my! No stone is left unturned when selecting the site of the NDSC Convention. That’s not to say that we are able to find a host city and venue that meets every criterion on our list! The Convention Planning Committee and then, ultimately, NDSC’s Board of Directors selects the city and venue that they feel will offer the best convention experience possible.
If you’d like the convention planning committee to consider your city for an NDSC convention, send an email to info@NDSCcenter.org