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?”