The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
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A Story of Success
A Story of Success

A Story of Success . . . The "S" in RSI stands for "success". Each day, we witness the positive changes that occur when families, professionals, friends, and communities work together. Bill Dixon's story embodies how this kind of collaboration supports the achievement of success. When Bill was a young boy his mother, Christina, met a US Serviceman, Joseph Yarra, in Scotland. After a four year courtship, Joe and Christina were married and planned to bring Bill to the US shortly after the wedding. In the early 1970s, explained Joe, Down syndrome "was considered a public health issue like tuberculosis." As such, before Bill was allowed to enter the U.S., the family was required to register with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as comply with other demands. With each condition met, the U.S. Embassy in London would impose yet another roadblock. Young Billy's flight home was postponed for months. Finally, through the advocacy of the Hampshire County ARC and the personal intervention of Senator Ted Kennedy, Bill boarded a plane in Scotland and became the first person with Down syndrome to immigrate to Massachusetts. Christina smiled, "When he got off the plane, they [the pilots and flight attendants] all got in line in a row to shake his hand." At school in Easthampton, Bill opened more doors. Despite the school system's initial reluctance to admit him, Bill quickly found allies. Arlene Loomis, his special education teacher, took notice in Bill's athletic aptitude, and supported his inclusion in pickup basketball games with his peers. An intern from UMass expanded upon Bill's proficiency as a swimmer by introducing him to the school's weight room. Bill won the 100 meter swimming competitions that year at the state Special Olympic competition, and, as Joe proudly recalled, "beat everyone by half a lap." Bill entered the workforce through Riverside. He has worked at Sammie's restaurant in Easthampton, Best Buy in Hadley, and Kelly's Restaurant in Amherst. He now works at Big E's in Easthampton. In 2006, Big E's nominated Bill as a "Man of Merit" in the Pioneer Valley, and was one of thirty-three people chosen to be featured in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. His work apron is adorned with buttons from around the world - gifts from coworkers and customers alike. "It's a remarkable story," says Gene Traver, his job coach. "Bill is someone who has gone from not being wanted in the country to becoming a welcomed and admired person in our community." This story is submitted with permission. It was published in the Fall 2010 newsletter of Riverside Industries Inc. - Your Riverside Connection is a publication of Riverside Industries, a non-profit, CARF accredited organization empowering people with disabilities for 40 years.




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