Sarah Horsman-Ploeger originally got involved with the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada (DSNNN) eight years ago through her job at The Continuum, where she works with families of infants and toddlers with developmental delays.
She started by helping to plan the Buddy Walk, which takes place every September. The event is a place for families to come together and support each other, while also sharing the experience with friends and other family members, so everyone can learn more about Down syndrome and how to support their loved ones.
Related: What is Down Syndrome?
Horsman-Ploeger started working with the organization in a professional capacity, but then she experienced it first-hand as a parent when then 12-year old Isaiah came to live with her and her wife, Kayla.
“We both already had a place in our hearts for kids with disabilities, but then we met Isaiah through Kayla’s job as a special education teacher aide,” she says. “We found out that he was the youngest of several kids in a family, had been neglected and hadn’t received the services he should’ve been.”
Sarah and Kayla officially adopted Isaiah in February of this year. While they’re experiencing the newness of being parents, Sarah has also become an even stronger advocate. She now sits on the board of DSNNN, and she says it’s a great organization for finding camaraderie with other families, while also breaking down the stigma of Down syndrome.
Getting the Word Out About Down Syndrome
“We have met with the governor and legislators, and also sat on the Nevada Day float,” she says. “It’s important that people understand that Down syndrome doesn’t have all the limitations that were once thought. There are plenty of people with Down syndrome who become entrepreneurs, hold down jobs and just lead normal lives.”
Isaiah is proof of that, as he enjoys many of the same things as other teens his age. He goes to Reno Aces baseball games with his parents and is very good at horseback riding and swimming. Something less common with teens: he is also good at household tasks.
“We showed him how to do laundry, and now anytime he has dirty clothes, he puts them in the washer,” Horsman-Ploeger laughs. “I can already see that any job he’s given in the future he’ll do well and to completion.”
Inclusion and Community Matter
DSNNN provides family support and hosts events throughout the year, all focused on inclusion and community-wide engagement. Activities include: Family adaptive yoga, performing arts workshops, art lessons, excursions to the Discovery Museum, summer picnics, Artown adventures, summer sports camps at Donner Lake, family & friends fun nights at the Reno Aces games and holiday celebrations.
How You Can Help
Wild About Smiles’ Dr. Perry Francis has spent decades working with children with behavioral issues or special needs, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other diagnoses. To help celebrate these families, he’s hosting a Pasta & Bingo Night on Saturday, October 19. For $40, attendees receive a homemade spaghetti dinner (prepared by Dr. Francis and his wife Cate), as well as three hours of bingo fun, live auction and raffle prizes. Two bingo cards are included, and additional cards are available for $1 each. Wine will be served with dinner, and additional glasses are available for a donation to DSNNN. It all takes place at Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community Church, at 1250 Wyoming Avenue in northwest Reno.
“The Down Syndrome Network is very important to our community, and we’re happy to support them and the families they serve,” Dr. Francis says.