Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville recognized by the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For over 30 years the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville is the only agency in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia that supports families of people with Down Syndrome. Their support begins with prenatal diagnosis and continues through early intervention, school age and throughout adulthood.

This year they were selected by the Jacksonville Automobile Dealers Association as that group’s Charity of the Year. JADA has donated over $2,200,000 to local charities and community service programs in the Jacksonville area. That year, $10,000 went to DSAJ.

Down syndrome occurs in one in 700 births, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Mikan Crittenden has seen how much the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville has helped her baby Brooklyn.

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“She was positive for trisomy 21 and then we were connected to the DSAJ after she went to a specialist,” Crittenden said.

The Crittenden credit the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville with helping them adjust appropriately to their new normal.

“First, our social life has doubled. We made so many friends through the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville. Through small events just for their age and through larger events like the Buddy Walk and the like. And we’ve been able to meet many other mothers and families who are at similar stages in their journey,” she said.

“We strive for inclusion,” said Debbie Revels, Executive Director of DSAJ. “We want our families and our wonderful people with Down syndrome to be included in the community, so that they are recognized for their gifts and talents and have the same opportunities as you and I.”

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Revels said, in addition to changing the stigmas of Down syndrome by creating more inclusive communities. The organization also supports their families financially.

“We help provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and so much, much more than that. Therapies are very expensive, sometimes children need this throughout their lives. So we have a stipend for each family, so we’re helping pay for those therapies,” Revels said.

Crittenden has seen this help first hand.

“She is in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. She excels in all of these areas and the DSAJ helps with that too. They really helped connect us with the right therapists and also some financial support,” Crittenden told News4JAX reporter Lena Pringle.

Through financial, physical, and emotional support, DSAJ aims to proactively help children with Down syndrome thrive into adulthood through a range of educational, athletic, and commercial programs.

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“They do their Abitur, they want to be like us. They want to get a job, so we offer them the support and training they need. We’re out in the community knocking on companies that are very interested in hiring our people,” Revels said.

Baby Brooklyn is now 16 months old and her family is excited for this journey and hopeful for the future thanks to DSAJ.

“You have been such a huge support to me and helped me see how Down Syndrome can be such a positive part of our lives. It doesn’t have to take up our whole life, but it is part of our life. Their resources are there for us when we are ready for them and when we are ready for them. I would like to see her as part of a community that loves, respects and adores her as a whole person,” Crittenden said.

As DSAJ enters its 34th year of mission, it hopes to continue to impact and positively transform Down Syndrome communities throughout River City. One family after the other.

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“The best is yet to come,” Revels said. “And with the support of the community, we want to do so much more. Inclusion is that. We want to be included in the school system. We want to be included in the community, in the workplace. So just embrace our mission and vision and we will continue to grow.”

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