An Interview With Nancy LaBelle, Executive Director of Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area
Q: What is the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area about and what do you all do?
NL: The Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area has proudly served Bay Area communities since 1998. Our mission is to empower, inspire and support people with Down syndrome, their families and the community, while fostering awareness and acceptance in all areas of life. We pride ourselves on developing programs focused on independence, development and friendship that meet the individual needs of our members. We are dedicated to educating parents, teachers, and medical professionals so that people of all ages with Down syndrome can live their best quality of life while being supported by a strong community. We are diligent about breaking down barriers to inclusion and work hard to make sure those we serve with Down syndrome have access to opportunities afforded to everyone.
Q: What do you love most about the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area and the work you all do?
NL: I love that we serve individuals with Down syndrome and all members of their family. We know grandparents, siblings and parents need support in different ways. We set-up children with Down syndrome for educational success by providing school readiness and communication skills; we support school teams by offering mentoring, materials, tools and training. Connecting with new families early on at the DSCBA is a lifeline as we offer hope and a very important sense of community. It is through facilitating personal relationships and real interactions that we gain a deep understanding of our members’ needs. We excitedly share best practices with educators, therapists, doctors and other professionals working with individuals with Down syndrome. The results of this collaboration are often life changing.
Q: How has the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area made a difference and what impact do you still wish to see the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area make?
NL: We are creating opportunities, opening doors, breaking down barriers, offering employment, providing training, innovating programs, and giving opportunities to the greater community to get involved and create meaningful relationships. We provide access to technology, develop resources, offer compassion, provide a voice to those that cannot speak and give hope to many Bay Area families. Our staff, consultants and volunteers are made-up of not only experts in their fields, but many who are parents of a child or adult with Down syndrome. We connect families to others in similar situations through our support groups, peer-topeer mentoring program, educational and social events. Our hope for the future is to continue expanding geographically and offering direct services throughout the Bay Area where we are very much needed.
Q: What is so special about the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area and how can people make a difference?
NL: Everyday we touch the lives of individuals with Down syndrome and their families. New parents come to us with fear and uncertainty; we provide support, education and hope. The DSCBA is the only center in Northern California dedicated to serving individuals with Down syndrome. As we expand our support, programs and direct services in communities throughout the Bay Area, everyone can make a difference through direct financial donations. We rely on the community to keep our doors open as we are not government funded. We also have volunteer opportunities and Board Member positions available to those that have a passion for our mission and who want to be part of our continued success. Visit www.dsconnection.org to learn more and to make a donation.