Happy National Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Today’s post  comes from Jenna:

October represents a special month in the Down syndrome community as well as the LiveUp community.  For LiveUp, October is our time of reflection.  We look back at all of the amazing accomplishments – the hard work that our regional directors put in to organize programs that are filled with smiles from all of our participants!   It is thus timely that October is also a time to reflect on all of the awesome achievement of the Down syndrome community.

In looking back on this year there are a lot of marvelous moments that our LiveUp community has watched and shared, but there are two people that we would be remiss not to thank and to celebrate.  Tim Lawrence and Briana Dunn were our two LiveUp Ambassadors this past year.  They wrote numerous thank you notes to our donors to help share the value of what giving to LiveUp provides to our community.  Each time I sent them another envelop full of cards to send out, Tim would shortly there after text me asking where his next round was!

Tim is known for being one of our biggest hearts – always going out of his way to make sure everyone is included.  Especially making sure every lady on the dance floor gets a dance 🙂  Tim also holds the lessons of LiveUp throughout the year making sure to continue to eat healthy and he even sends us pictures of what he has cooked himself.
Briana‘s smile and determination inspire me throughout the year.  She works hard and is always encouraging herself and her friends to go further then they thought they could with a smile on.

We are so grateful to both of their achievements both in the community and for the LiveUp Family!

We are currently doing 2018 planning.  If you are interested in getting more involved in LiveUp next year please email Jenna at Jenna@LiveUpPrograms.org

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Join the team at GiGi’s Playhouse NYC!

Post comes from our friends at GiGi’s Playhouse NYC!

Are you a young professional with a passion for service and dedication to social entrepreneurship? Are you interested in being able to parlay your passion and energy into being actively involved with an NYC nonprofit organization, while gaining board leadership experience? GiGi’s Playhouse NYC would love to have you involved with their Associate Board! GiGiPHNYC’s Associate Board will be comprised of young professionals, under age 35, who are interested in implementing creative fundraising activities and volunteering with the Down syndrome community.

GiGi’s Playhouse NYC is committed to creating a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted and embraced in their families, schools and communities, and our mission it to create positive awareness of Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational programs and by empowering individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. As the only organization in New York City that is dedicated to providing services specifically to the Down syndrome community, we have a great deal of which to be very proud! Some of our achievements include:

  • Serving an average of 370 participants per month
  • Programming includes literacy, athletics, music, art and dance
  • Programming offered in Manhattan and two locations in Brooklyn
  • All ages served, including expectant mothers

If you are interested in serving the NYC Down syndrome community, have a passion for service, and are interested in sharing your creativity and talents, please contact Victoria Nadal, GiGi’s Playhouse’s Executive Director at vnadal@gigisplayhouse.org to learn more about getting involved with GiGiPHNYC’s Associate Board.

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A Mentor’s Perspective

Today’s post comes from Cassio, one of our amazing LiveUp San Diego mentors!

This past June was my 4th LiveUp in San Diego. I could have never imagined when I first decided to become a mentor that this program would change my life forever. I knew I would enjoy it and I knew I would have fun, but what I did not know is that I would become a part of all these amazing families.

First Luke and Trish welcomed me into their lives with arms wide open and I couldn’t love that guy more. Then last year I met the Kozaks and, again, we had an instant connection. Since last year, Jared and I have met a couple of times outside of LiveUp and this I recently had the privilege of celebrating our birthdays together up in Whittier, CA where they live. We had breakfast, hiked the wilderness park nearby, played a game of croquet and corn hole and finish our day having Spanish Tapas at a local restaurant. Joan and Mark were the most gracious hosts to Andy and I… and we are already planning their next weekend down here in San Diego.

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Cheers to an incredible LiveUp summer!

Today’s LiveUpDate comes from Jamie Weiss, one of the NYC Program directors!

Over Labor Day weekend, the LiveUp season concluded its seventh year with programs in New York City and Washington, DC. Between the two programs, LiveUp welcomed 37 adults with Down syndrome and 45 volunteers. The entire weekend was a high note full of endless dance parties, so many hugs, new friendships and city adventures.

In New York City we hopped on a boat tour along the Hudson River, participated in an improv workshop, took in beautiful NYC views at the Top of the Rock, visited the American Museum of Natural History and the fun did not stop there. In Washington, DC we went to the Renaissance Fair, practiced yoga, took a painting class, visited the National Air and Space Museum and so much more.

I have been lucky enough to be a Director of LiveUp for the past five years. LiveUp is hands-down one of my favorite weekends of the year. It is even more special that I get to share the weekend directing with my sister and alongside so many close friends. I love welcoming new people each year and showing them what this incredible program is all about. I love reconnecting with old friends and picking up right where we left off. And, I love being a part of a community where we enable one another to thrive and encourage one another to be the best version of ourselves

Every year, LiveUp teaches me new things. As a group we learn together, explore the unfamiliar and challenge one another. As individuals we grow into better human beings, take steps outside of our comfort zones and open our minds to new possibilities. This year, I learned a lot from our New York City experience. I learned that Jingle Bell Rock may actually be the best karaoke song of all time. I learned that any phrase can be made into a cheer and any phrase followed by a cheer (woo!) creates a fantastic energy. I was reminded that everything works itself out, even when it rains all day and all of your scheduled activities were supposed to be outdoors. I learned the purpose of the “bagel” setting on a toaster (to only toast the inside of the bagel). I was reminded of the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone through the many new things we all tried throughout the weekend. I was reminded that delight can be found in so many places. I learned that you should always wear gloves when tie-dying.I learned many new yoga poses, kick-boxing moves and zumba dances. And I was reminded that so many magical moments are created when a group of awesome, thoughtful, dynamic and inspiring individuals come together.

Cheers to what was an incredible LiveUp year and to many, many more! May we all continue to hug often, step outside of our comfort zones, learn new things and surround ourselves with people who lift us up.

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Countdown to LiveUp DC!

Today’s LiveUpDate comes from Brad Simon, one of the DC Program directors!

As I look back on my five years as a mentor with LiveUp Programs, one single word continues to repeat itself …. community. Yes, LiveUp is certainly a community which supports individuals with Down syndrome, but the idea of community means so much more than its face value.

LiveUp was the first real community that I joined after college. I was feeling aimless after graduation and it was my participation in LiveUp DC that provided direction. I never really knew anyone with Down syndrome and walked into the weekend with hesitation, but with the support of friends I left knowing that I had gained a new outlook on life and found my calling. While I currently work in higher education, LiveUp was what pushed me to find a career which challenges me to enter each conversation with an open mind so that I can better support the well-being and growth of others.

Beyond this, LiveUp has granted me a whole new groups of friends. I was in a fraternity and before being a mentor at LiveUp I spent a lot of time wishing I had more friends like my brothers. Now I utilize each LiveUp program as a reunion with old friends and a mixer to meet people who care about similar causes and topics. And our friendships do not end with closing ceremonies. Many of us hold our own long-weekends throughout the year to keep the fun going … though I have to admit that sometimes we forget to focus on healthy living.

The last element of community that replays in my mind is the long list of partnerships we have created with our programs. Without the support of the businesses and groups in the program city, LiveUp wouldn’t be quite as amazing. I am forever grateful for people like Jared from Spirit Club, who brings his team to us from a distance each year to support our desire to be active and healthy. I am thankful for companies such as Peet’s Coffee and Bethesda Bagels for keeping us full and energized with their generous donations for breakfast and beyond. A program is not really complete without the support of the surrounding community.

Whether is is the Down syndrome community that pushes me to create more good in this world, the friends that surround me each day with texts and adventure, or organizations and groups that enable us to experience more, the many definitions of community are why I LiveUp. It’s also why roughly 90% of my new interactions end with, “would you like to join LiveUp?”

 

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Parent Perspective: Joan Thomas

Today’s LiveUpDate comes from Joan Thomas. Her son John is one of our wonderful participants!

LiveUp, what does it mean to parents? We are blessed with a terrific son, John. John has a job that he loves, (works at the Acme in Bryn Mawr) about 26-30 hours a week. He is involved in Pennsylvania Special Olympics year round, he has a good friend Chris, and he has two fabulous brothers. His brothers and their friends include John in many things, and for that we are so grateful. He has a pretty full life.

Why does he love LiveUp so much? John loves it because it is “his.” It is a social/educational/fun weekend that he shares with his peers and an absolutely incredible group of young adults. Who are these people and what is their impetus to give our “young adults” such a wonderful experience? They are a selfless group of smiling, happy, caring individuals that share themselves with our kids, help them navigate new experiences, and accept them as they are. This is no small feat. 

We have worked our entire lives trying to help others see our children as people first. These young LiveUp adults not only see our kids as kids, they celebrate each and every one. This weekend is an experience that our kids talk about all year. They cannot wait to see their mentors at the next LiveUp weekend. What they give to us and to our children is priceless, and for that we are grateful.

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Liveup San Diego highlights!

Today’s post comes from Michelle, one of the directors at LiveUp San Diego!

This past weekend, I was blessed to participate in my third LiveUp San Diego, and my first program as a director! Year after year, it is so exciting to be reunited with the LiveUp family, and something I look forward to every summer.

This year, I was particularly blown away by the huge strides our participants had made in their personal lives. They all came back to San Diego with a greater zeal for life, more independence, and an eagerness to form new relationships and experience new things!

In between our many laughs and random karaoke parties, we traveled together to the San Diego zoo, went kayaking at Mission Bay, bonded with rescued horses and llamas at Ferdinand’s Farm, practiced yoga, and danced out hearts out with Country Sole!

Each participant contributes a little bit of their own special magic to create the LiveUp Magic. You’ve heard it said before that the LiveUp magic is not something that can be put into words – but can be seen in the smiles, laughs, dance moves, and confidence of our participants.

As our t-shirts this year said, we truly lived bigger, we lived bolder, we lived brighter, and we LIVED UP!

For a little glimpse into the LiveUp San Diego magic, please take a look at our highlights video, created by our very talented media-man, Jake!

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Why I LiveUp!

Today’s post comes from Emily, one of the directors at LiveUp San Diego!

This year will be my fourth LiveUp, and my second time as a director. I’m so excited to come back and be reunited with my LiveUp family in San Diego! Without a doubt, LiveUp is one of my most favorite places in the world. There is a certain electric energy that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Last year at LiveUp San Diego a question began to float around. Why do we LiveUp? Why do we as volunteers and participants choose to spend our time at a LiveUp Program?

For me, this answer is simple. LiveUp is the only place I have found where you can be completely surrounded by genuinely good people, who all want each other to grow and succeed. In a world that can be so dark, LiveUp is a light that shines only on the good. It’s something that has had a tremendous impact on my life and something I feel so lucky to be a part of!

 

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Get ready for LiveUp Boston!

Hey LiveUp Family!  David, one of the local directors, coming to you live from Boston, Massachusetts!

I wanted to give everyone a sneak peak into some of the incredible activities we have planned next month.  Even though we’re still a few weeks away, Laura, Caroline, Jenna and I have been planning and counting down for months now!  There are a lot of people involved in making these camps so great, and we are so excited to see all of the friends we’ve made over years–plus all of our new friends!

We can’t wait to stay at Boston University again which let’s us be right in the middle of one of the coolest cities in America!  Some of the things we’re most excited for (besides being with all of you incredible people) are bowling, taking a boat out to the Harbor Islands, Improv Boston and touring this amazing city that we’re lucky to call home.

One thing that I’ve been personally trying to do more often is to really take stock of the things in my life that I’m most grateful for. I’m confident that I’m not alone in being incredibly grateful for this amazing community of participants, mentors and parents. Every year I find myself getting new energy as we get closer to our LiveUp Weekend. We might all lose that energy by the end of a jam packed weekend, but LiveUp is always one of the most uplifting and refreshing times of the year.  It’s very seldom that this many amazing people come together for one weekend and make it so easy to forget about everything else for a few short days.

What are you grateful for?  Find us on Social Media and tell us what you are most grateful or excited about this year!

Can’t wait to see everyone soon!

Live Up, Love Up,

The Boston LiveUp Staff

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LiveUp Philly is just 2 days away!!

Today’s post comes from Rachael, one of the awesome directors at LiveUp Philly!

As I put together my enormous Sams Club grocery list, sort out the Holy Family University housing grid and repeatedly chant myself reminders to not forget the Phillies tickets sitting neatly atop my dresser, I know that LiveUp Philly is quickly approaching. Through my years of directing LiveUp Philly, it is an honor to watch the program and its members evolve. There are always blasts from the pasts to look forward to, like going to see Comedy Sportz’s Improv Comedy Show, annual favorites, such as the epic dinner/dance, and new excursions to be discovered, like our trip to the Aquarium this year.

The weekend is jam-packed with other empowering activities, such as painting, cooking, and daily wellness. We will learn from Penn Dental students more about dental hygiene and taking care of ourselves, we will learn from Walnut Street Theater actors how to sing and dance (or maybe we will teach them!!), and we will get lost in the Philly food scene at Reading Terminal Market. The weekend is always filled with laughter, support, and endless karaoke (who else is glad we have let go of Frozen’s feature song, “Let it Go”?)

As I gear up for the weekend, I should be worried that everything will go smoothly, that everyone remembered to pack their sheets, that I will buy the perfect amount of bananas for morning breakfast that meets the daily demand, but after years of directing this program, none of these fears take control of my thoughts. And here’s why: LiveUp is community built on friendship, creativity and joy. If we run out of bananas, I guarantee you that someone will come up with an elaborate pitch for why strawberries are equally as awesome as bananas and everyone will be clamoring for more strawberries. If someone forgets sheets, I promise you that someone will offer their own sheets to that person and make a makeshift set of sheets for themselves out of their towel and LiveUp sweatshirts. If a program is not running as smoothly as it could, I know our group will come together and collaborate to ensure we are including everyone and having nothing short of a terrific experience.

As a director, I am grateful to the partners in the Philadelphia, both new and old, who continually provide us with fantastic programming, to the staff, whose generosity and leadership leave me in awe year after year, and to the participants, whose energy levels and genuine celebration of life teach us in a short weekend how we should live throughout the rest of the year. I cannot wait for this weekend!

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