Please take the time to meet my friend Katie. I am so fortunate to know her; you would be fortunate, too. Katie currently is a 31 year old woman. When she and I met, Katie was a baby and the first thing I remember was how she smiled at me - innocent, loving, adorable. Ok, you are probably thinking, all babies have that genuine smile. Yes, that's true. In countless ways, Katie was just like any other baby. In some ways, she was different. You see, Katie was born with Down syndrome. And all of us who know her bless the day she was born.
Katie has had quite the life. Her family knows her as someone who is fun, loves to sing along with the radio, doesn't always want to clean her room, can be stubborn, appreciates hugs, loves to play with her nephews Devan and Jameson and, along with so many personality complexities, values her family and friends. Katie has experienced what would be considered a "normal" childhood that consisted of, in part, going to dance classes, being a cheerleader, playing with her sisters and other friends, testing limits with her parents, watching her favorite television shows, working at Bob's Stores, and having crushes on boys.She is the go-to person in the family for quotes from Romeo & Juliet and moves in Uno®. In fact, Katie is just like others her age, but she is also atypical. What you won't find in Katie is animosity, selfishness, meanness, or dishonesty. Katie is loving… genuinely loving. That is the one trait that distinguishes Katie and most with Down syndrome from many other people. When my husband passed away recently, Katie knew instinctively when to wrap her arms around me, give me a hug, look me in the eyes and say, "I know, I miss him too."
Academics have presented a challenge, but they have not inhibited Katie. She now volunteers three days a week at Cornerstone Alzheimer's Center in Warwick and, because of her appreciation and understanding of music, has her own disc jockey business where she entertains at special events such as birthday and holiday parties. She also has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend of seven years, Bobby. Other couples could emulate the kindness and care that they display toward one another. Yesterday, when I was in their company, I heard Bobby say, "Katie, you look beautiful!" and she replied, "Oh, Bobby, you are so nice!"
In Katie's words, "I love working at Cornerstone; I also love to read, love to dance, and love to spend time with my boyfriend and my family and friends. I also really enjoy my DJ business; the people I entertain like me, too! I have a happy life." Katie is my friend - my good friend. Today, as I write this, she is jotting down ideas about a school presentation she would like to do to encourage acceptance of diversity. She is an extraordinary woman and so many lives are enriched because of her. Mine certainly has been.