In 2001, two parents of children with Down syndrome, Frances Capo and Lilianne Rossel, met through their genetic specialist with the idea of starting an organization for other parents to meet, share experiences, and get information about Down syndrome in Miami-Dade County. They both shared the mindset that individuals with Down syndrome are just that—individuals—people with personalities, ideas, and tremendous spirit.Their idea began with small fundraisers and their first event, a family picnic at a local park now hosted annually. That original idea, with the help of other like-minded parents, became what is known today as the Down Syndrome Association of Miami (DSAOM), incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in September 2005.
With the mission to provide support and services to parents and individuals with Down syndrome, as well as to bring awareness to the Miami-Dade community, DSAOM hosted its first ever “Miracle Walk” in 2007. The walk was named for the street on which the event would take place, Miracle Mile. In what was originally conceptualized as a small event, organizers were blown away by the participation of over 2,000 proud families, friends, and supporters. The Miracle Walk was further supported by community leaders and advocates, countless online donors, over 40 “Platinum” and “Gold” level corporate sponsors, and several community volunteers. As it turned out, the walk was aptly named; it was in fact a Miracle. The event now takes place annually.
Today, DSAOM welcomes parents of new babies born with Down syndrome in Miami-Dade County with gift baskets and provides them with books and other constructive information about Down syndrome. DSAOM has instituted a “therapy gift certificate program,” where children with Down syndrome could enter to win monthly gift certificates for needed speech, occupational or physical therapy. DSAOM hosts age-appropriate classes for babies, toddlers, and young children with Down syndrome designed to stimulate the mind and activate the body and allow parents an opportunity to network. DSAOM also hosts a workshop to teach parents how to advocate for their children with special needs. DSAOM has also gotten involved on a national level, supporting the National Down Syndrome Society.
DSAOM continues to make strides towards realizing its mission, to provide much needed support and services to parents and individuals with Down syndrome and to bring awareness to Miami-Dade. Our hope is for everyone to realize that individuals with Down syndrome are valuable members of our community who deserve the chance to realize their personal dreams and aspirations as adults.
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