I’ve got two.  And in sharing them, I’m also going to reveal a little known secret about me.  (How’s that for a tease?)

Widely known fact: My daughter has Down syndrome.  She was diagnosed the day she was born to two otherwise oblivious parents who had every opportunity to expect such a diagnosis prenatally but blindly chose to live in ignorant bliss.  (I totally recommend it!!)

One of the first organizations we reached out to for support: The Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.38.04 AMAugust 2010: We took our 8-week old infant for an hour-and-a-half ride down to the shore for our first experience with locals who have Down syndrome and their families.  I still remember the drive down.  We talked briefly about bailing because frankly, this was going to be a level of reality we weren’t sure we were ready for.  I said no, we’ve got to do this.  So glad we did.

We arrive and head to the registration tent where we’re (ok, Abby is) immediately fawned over.  I take a seat on a nearby covered beach area where we proceed to be swarmed (in the most welcoming way possible) by a group of new(ish) moms who knew exactly what I was feeling and were very open to sharing their thoughts on fears I had just recently discovered.  Any apprehension we’d felt in the car was wiped away.

Five and a half years later, I am still in touch with these girls and their families.  I’ll be forever grateful for the support they provided that day (and ongoing.)  I’m also more than happy when I get to pay that support forward to moms newer to this club than I.

Over the years, the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress has provided countless opportunities for networking and information.  Annual conferences, annual picnics such as the one I described, play groups, workshops, Buddy Walks, information sharing.  I can’t say enough about them.  If you’re looking for a Connecticut-based charity to donate to this holiday season, they’re it.

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Little-known fact: Approximately three and a half years ago, I abandoned my home state of 32 years for the faraway land of Massachusetts.  Truth be told, my participation on this blog is a farce – I’m not a Connecticut Working Mom, I’m a Massachusetts Working Mom.  The house I live in is two whole miles over the Connecticut state line.  Please, please accept me despite this transgression.

This leads me to my other charity of choice, the Down Syndrome Resource Group of Western Massachusetts.  While we still participate in several of the CDSC’s events, the DSRG has welcomed us with open arms.  They, too, provide a wealth (more, actually) opportunities for networking, socializing and learning.  We’ve been to potty training workshops, gala events, monthly playgroups and more thanks to this amazing organization.

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.59.56 AMThey’ve paid for Abby’s dance class and private speech therapies.  They’ve connected us to opportunities like you see in the picture to the left – a sensory-friendly Santa experience for kids with special needs.  Impressively, just last month, they paid for 5 teachers from Abby’s school to attend a Down syndrome educator’s conference in Worcester.

Both the MA and CT organizations sponsor local Buddy Walks each fall, fundraising and awareness-raising for Down syndrome.  We’ve participated every year since Abby was an infant, raising more than $40,000 in Abby’s name for the CDSC and DSRG.  How cool is that?!!  For the western Mass organization, this is their only fundraiser.  They provide us with so much support and ask for nothing in return – no annual membership fee, nothing.  They are nothing short of amazing.

If you’re looking for an organization to support and don’t mind that it happens to be based a few miles north of Connecticut, please consider a donation of any size to the Down Syndrome Resource Group of Western Massachusetts.

Abby and I thank you!!