EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association (RGVDSA) held its ninth ‘Step Up for Down Syndrome’ parade and walk on Oct. 16.
The event raised a question with many participants of what more their communities could do for those with down syndrome.
Co-founder and President of the RGVDSA, Deborah Tomai told ValleyCentral the event was created in an effort for people to take notice of the differences in her community.
Nine years ago, the event began with 15 active families, and now, more than 70 families participated in the 2021 event.
“It shows everyone how many children we have here in the Valley that do have down syndrome and how important it is to include them in stuff,” said McAllen resident, Rachel Livigna. “They’re just like everybody else and so it’s a great opportunity for people to see how really great these kids are.”
Livigna has a brother, Tommy who is 23 years old, but she and her family have been participating in the event since it began. She added that she has seen change over the years, but more representation is needed.
“Definitely more inclusion in schools. That is something we fought for with Tommy in school, just making sure he got the education he needed and the involvement with other kids because they wanna be involved with everybody else,” said Livigna.
Edinburg resident, Kassandra Gonzalez agreed with Livigna and also said that the education of down syndrome should be publicized more and taught in schools. La Feria resident, Veronica Aleman wants to see more leagues and programs developed as well that help with inclusivity.
RGVDSA is working to continue further awareness, acceptance, and celebration. Their 2021 event raised about $85,000 which Tomai said will go directly back into down syndrome awareness and those families who have a loved one with down syndrome.
Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome which affects the intellectual ability of individuals and facial features.
The ‘Step Up for Down Syndrome’ event is set to happen again in 2022, but whether it will be virtual or back to normal has not yet been determined.
For more information on RGVDSA’s upcoming events, you can visit their website.