The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
8 E 41st Street, 8th Floor
New York New York 10017
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Dan Piper Award

The Dan Piper Award was established to commemorate Self-Advocate Dan Piper's life by celebrating an individual with Down syndrome (18+) who, through everyday activities, brings about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down syndrome in his or her community. 

  • The recipient of the 2017 Dan Piper Award and a guest will travel to New York City where he or she will receive the award at the Flagship Buddy Walk® on September 16.
  • Nominations for the 2017 Dan Piper Award will be accepted through July 14, 2017.
  • Please contact Kandi Pickard at [email protected] with any questions.
  • The nomination form can be found here.

By living to his or her fullest, this person is an advocate for him- or herself and others with Down syndrome.

About Dan

The Dan Piper Award is given in memory of Dan Piper, a young man with Down syndrome. Dan had an inclusive education and showed the Iowa Public School System that people with Down syndrome are not only intelligent and able to learn, but are also contributing members of the school community through involvement in extracurricular activities. Dan was employed, and had many friends in the town where he lived in Iowa. Dan considered himself a "regular guy" who was given opportunities that allowed him to accomplish extraordinary things, such as testifying before Congress on behalf of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dan Piper Award Past Recipients

2017 Dan piper award recipient: Tyler Caldwell

The 2017 award recipient, Tyler Caldwell of Roanoke, VA, is the embodiment of the Dan Piper Award. He has many accomplishments to his name and is a current Kroger employee. Tyler was in the first graduating class of the Growth Through Opportunity program. The Growth Through Opportunity, or GTO, Cadet Program is designed for young adults with unique challenges to gain valuable social experience and job skills by volunteering for the police department. Tyler has become a valuable representative for GTO and has attended multiple conferences to discuss the impact of the program and his job!

2015 Dan piper award recipient: megan cloyes

NDSS proudly honored Megan Cloyes at the 21st Annual New York City Buddy Walk®. Megan attended West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, graduating in June 2012.  While at North, Megan completed a combination of special and regular education courses.  Her greatest successes were in language arts.  And her greatest challenge was, and remains, math. Megan chose Choir as her elective each year, which was a wonderful experience.  She performed several times at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, at Princeton University and at the State Capitol in Trenton, NJ.  Megan was also a member of the Marching Band’s Color Guard, performing at football games and marching in parades.  At Senior Awards Night, Megan received the Jack Rutledge Memorial Scholarship awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated involvement with students with intellectual disabilities and special needs within the WW-P community.  Megan was the first recipient with special needs to be awarded the scholarship.  Throughout High School Megan was also a Girl Scout with over 50 hours of community service.  Megan began participating in Special Olympics in fifth grade and continued to compete on SO high school teams in soccer, cross country skiing and track & field.

Megan is an accomplished public speaker and has completed a Toastmasters course.  Megan has spoken at NDSS events, a Toy R Us annual meeting, The Peddie School and at several fund raisers.

Megan applied to and was accepted to the Career & Community Studies Program at The College of New Jersey.  Megan had to complete an application, write a short essay and be interviewed on campus prior to her acceptance.  Megan lives just off campus in a house with three other CCS students and a TCNJ student house mentor.  Each semester, she takes several courses within the CCS program, is assigned an on campus practicum and takes one TCNJ course.  Megan has enjoyed taking several psychology courses as her electives.  Megan is on campus most days from 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon; when not in class she takes advantage of supported study labs to work on her assignments and socializes with her friends.  Megan has joined the TCNJ SO Unified soccer and basketball teams, and has competed in college tournaments in both sports.  She is also a member of the Best Buddies Club and the Catholic Campus Ministry.  Megan loves the independence that she has while at TCNJ. 

For many years, every once in a while, after a particularly great event, a major accomplishment, or just on a beautiful day, Megan will out of the blue state, “I love my life.” And she really, really means it.


NDSS proudly honored Joe Nelson at the 20th Annual New York City Buddy Walk®. Joe, the youngest of three siblings, is 24 years old, and lives in Michigan. He moved in with his sister a few years ago, leaving behind their parents. This was incredibly hard for Joe to do, but he has known since he was a teenager that he wanted freedom and to be responsible for his own decisions, and he knew that he couldn’t do that living at home.

When his sister was accepted into graduate school and had to move several states away, he decided to come along, even though that meant moving farther away than he has ever lived before. He did it because he knew that it meant new opportunities, and the chance to keep working towards his goals of independent living and being a public speaker for Down syndrome issues. These goals are important to him, and he has worked hard to accomplish them.

This year Joe took a class on becoming an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. To do the class he had to travel an hour away to stay in a hotel by himself overnight, something he’d never done before, at least one weekend a month. He attended classes, many of which he was one of the youngest participants, and many of which were over half populated by people without disabilities. He had to read material, do homework, and take notes on his tablet to keep up, but he was so proud of the material that he learned there. He wants to use those lessons to help him advocate for himself and others.

Joe also went on a summer break trip with local college students this year to Philadelphia, where he worked with his college buddies doing volunteer work. He said it was hard work, but he was able to help kids there, and show them that people with disabilities are important. When he returned, he participated in a panel at an academic conference at a local university. He volunteers at every possible opportunity, and in years past has been a spokesperson for events large and small.


Twenty-one-year-old Sean Adams was nominated for the Dan Piper Award by Blessed by Downs, the NDSS Southeast Louisiana Affiliate. Sean, from LaRose, LA, became interested in sign language in middle school, inspired by a Helen Keller lesson and taught himself with signing videos and books. He received his award for volunteering hours at graduation. He went to prom and rode the bus with his date and his many friends. He joined Special Olympics in the summer of 2012 in swimming. He practiced daily for about an hour to achieve his goals, and at the state meet he took home one gold in butterfly, three silver in freestyle, back stroke and relay and one bronze in relay.

Today, Sean is a Junior Leader for his church youth group, he also helps with summer camps and retreats. On Monday, Sean assists the youth pastor with organizing the weeks work, every Wednesday at church he helps young children learn about the bible. On Tuesday, Sean works at the local elementary school. His jobs at the school vary from helping in the classrooms, the library, sorting mail, breakfast duty, he also helps in the front office. On Friday, Sean works for a local boat company in their grocery store where he stocks, sorts and packs groceries for offshore boats.

Sean also wrote a book about having Down syndrome and being happy with his life despite all the many challenges. Sean titled his book “I’M HAPPY TO BE ME.”

Sean wants to continue to advocate for himself and others like him.


NDSS was excited to honor Keith Tepas of Williamsville, NY with the 2012 Dan Piper Award.  At the time, Keith enjoyed his community job at Excuria Spa and Salon in Williamsville, NY. In addition, Keith was doing a great deal of volunteer work. On Tuesday mornings he regularly helped a player on a Touching Bases Softball team to stay focused while playing, assisting him in catching the ball and making plays during the game; Keith’s help kept the player, who had a short attention span, safe during moments of distraction while the ball was in play.  

Keith also volunteered at the Clarence Senior Center doing cleanup tasks in the kitchen and dining room and assisting during Meals on Wheels driving trips to Akron to deliver hot and cold meals to older citizens. He brought the seniors bright messages of happy greetings to brighten their day. He also volunteered an hour of his time each week to put CDs and DVDs back in their proper places at the Eggertsville Branch Library.

Keith completed all of the necessary requirements to become an Eagle Scout while a member of Boy Scout Troop 659 in Cheektowaga. He worked with Troop 616 in West Seneca to help 30 young scouts complete their Disabilities Awareness merit badges, and has worked with his mother, also a Scout Leader, to make presentations to members of the community about how the Boy Scouts of America has worked to include scouts with disabilities. Keith is presently a member of Venture Crew 93 in Clarence.

In his free time, Keith enjoys attending local theatre performances. He is also an athlete, playing for the Challenger Baseball League of Amherst, the Touching Bases Softball League of Erie County and the Buffalo Sabres Thunder hockey team.  He bowls as part of a Special Olympics team. 


NDSS was proud to honor Matt Porter with the 2011 Dan Piper Award. The award was presented to Matt by NDSS Goodwill Ambassador Chris Burke as part of the 2011 New York City Buddy Walk®'s opening ceremony on September 24 in Central Park.

Matt, or "Matt Porter" to everyone who knows him, is from Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. He lives near Penn State University, where he has taken several classes. He is the sixth child in a family of 14 children, and his brothers and sisters all agree that he is a big part of what makes their family special. According to his local affiliate group, the Centre County Down Syndrome Society, Matt is "a dedicated friend, brother, son, volunteer, employee and advocate, with an infectious smile and a winning, go-get-'em attitude. He inspires members of his community to live each day to serve others and make people happy." Matt's personality and attitude towards life embody the spirit of the Dan Piper Award.

Matt and his brother, Andy, recently spent some time on Capitol Hill, advocating for individuals with Down syndrome as part of the NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington. As a result of their tremendous impact, NDSS featured the Porter brothers in our semiannual fundraising letter.

We at NDSS are not Matt's only fans. Congressman Glenn "GT" Thompson recognized him as the recipient of the 2011 Dan Piper Award on the floor of the US House of Representatives and Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers congratulated him on receiving the 2011 Dan Piper Award.


NDSS honored Tracy Boden, Self-Advocate and Board Member of Wisconsin Upside Down, with the 2010 Dan Piper Award at the New York City Buddy Walk® on September 25, where Tracy received her award and shared her inspirational story with the crowd.

At the time, Tracy was a recent graduate of Arrowhead High School in Southeastern Wisconsin. She was an intern at two businesses, a public speaker and a choreographer. 

When the special education program at her school was not challenging enough, Tracy and her mother fought for Tracy to be included in regular studies. Tracy is an excellent example of how a self-advocate can change negative perceptions of people with Down syndrome to positive ones.

Tracy worked as an intern at Lake Country Fine Arts, where her duties included cleaning and answering and making calls. She also worked at This Great Coffee Place, where she took orders, prepared smoothies and cleaned. Tracy has also spent years working tirelessly as a self-advocate in Southeastern Wisconsin. She often addresses large groups and is always on hand to help.

Tracy has had to overcome a life threatening illness. She is often hospitalized due to a buildup of spinal fluid, but it doesn't change her beautiful outlook on life. She just gets out and faces the world full throttle as soon as she is able. During one prolonged hospital stay, she put on a significant amount of weight. When she was well, she started dancing every day to lose weight. She succeeded and is now 40 pounds smaller. Tracy decided she wanted to share her weight loss success with others and is now working with a choreographer to produce a dance video for teens and adults with Down syndrome.


(Erin, left, and NDSS Board Member Sarah Wolff)

NDSS was thrilled to honor Erin Thompson of Virginia by naming her winner of the 2009 Dan Piper Award. Erin received her award and shared her story with the crowd at the New York City Buddy Walk® on September 26, 2009.

At the time, Erin was a 22 year old senior at George Mason University's LIFE Program for students with developmental disabilities. She lived on campus full-time and was an active participant in campus life. In addition to the LIFE curriculum, Erin audited regular George Mason University (GMU) classes, which she advocated on her own behalf to take. She worked for and has written articles for GMU's newspaper, The Broadside. Erin was also the Buddy Director for Best Buddies Virginia at GMU and a Buddy Ambassador for the State of Virginia. As a board member for the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia (DSANV), Erin has contributed to the Education and AIA committees. Erin is also active in Special Olympics and was selected to the 2005 and 2006 Virginia Youth Leadership Forum.

Erin has become a passionate and accomplished advocate for those with intellectual disabilities. She, along with a colleague from the Arc of Northern Virginia, initiated a bill in the Virginia legislature to update the language in Virginia laws to replace the outdated and pejorative term "retarded" to "intellectually disabled." She testified in front of the Virginia Legislature and has spoken many times in front of large audiences. She was awarded the PEATC Virginia Star Icon Award in 2008 for her advocacy work and the 2008 Advocates in Disability Award from the HSC Foundation in Washington, DC.

In 2009, Erin received a grant to further her postsecondary education through the NDSS O'Neill Tabani Enrichment Fund. In 2010, Erin was voted to the NDSS Board of Directors.  

2008 Dan piper award recipient: Tracey Newhart

NDSS was pleased to award the 2008 Dan Piper Award to Tracey Newhart. Tracey, who finished high school in 2003, has long held culinary aspirations. In 2008 she opened her own catering business, naming it Tracey’s Kitchen. Working out her home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Tracey bakes cakes, cookies, pies and other foods to sell at special events. Tracey has catered for Down syndrome awareness events around the country.


NDSS celebrated Patrick Tweedie and his achievements at the 2007 New York City Buddy Walk®.  Patrick has been playing the guitar for over a decade.  The quality of his music and his beautiful personality captivate anyone that he plays for, including his family and friends, nursing home patients, and national conference participants.  In addition to making music, Patrick is employed as an administrative assistant in Malibu City Hall.  He also finds time to volunteer for political campaigns, the World Cup, and Special Olympics.  Through his work, volunteerism and music making, Patrick embodies the spirit of the Dan Piper Award, demonstrating the many talents, accomplishments and capabilities of people with Down syndrome. 

Patrick lives his life seeing the positive side of everything and everyone.  Patrick has made and undoubtedly will continue to make an impact not only within the Down syndrome community, but also within society at large.


(David at the NDSS Young Leadership Committee's 2012 World Down Syndrome Day event)

NDSS was pleased to award David Egan with the Dan Piper Award in 2006 at the New York City Buddy Walk®.  David Egan is a Booz-Allen and Hamilton employee in the Distribution Center, where he has worked since 1998. He serves on several boards at the local, state, national and international levels with Down syndrome associations Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia (DSANV), Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action and the Special Olympics.

He has been involved in community outreach and advocacy since 1999, when he volunteered at the Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina. An athlete himself, he competes and has represented the State of Virginia at the Global Athlete Congress in the Netherlands in the year 2000, in Morocco in 2010 and in Greece in 2011.

A recipient of various awards, he received a "Heroes Award" from the Special Olympics in 2002 and a "Voices Award" in 2003 from NDSS. As a leader in advocacy he was presented with the NDSS Dan Piper Award in 2006 at the World Down Syndrome Congress in Vancouver, Canada. David has given various keynote speeches, was interviewed on TV in various countries and is sought after in fundraising events to raise awareness and seek supporters. He writes articles and was published in Spirit Magazine and in a book called "Simple Successes."

David has visited both the House of Representitives and the Senate in Washington, DC; he has also visited the United Nations in New York City on World Down Syndrome Day, bearing witness for people with disabilities.

Watch a video about David's employment at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Watch a video of David testifying on Capitol Hill.
Watch David give a presentation at the United Nations.

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