LiveUp San Diego 2016: Lives Changed!

13935171_954253584719929_5242397001370202987_nThis post comes from Derrick, one of the amazing directors at LiveUp SD!

Trying to transfer to you the warmth in our hearts, or even a tenth of the ways our lives were changed would be a triumph that mere words on a page simply can’t produce.  Therefore, allow me to share just a few of the magnetic smiles and irresistibly charming moments we were rewarded with thanks to our 2016 LiveUp SD family.

Friendships were both built and refreshed as the excitement of the next few days became our high octane rocket fuel. We launched towards the HI San Diego Point Loma with no idea of how the adventures ahead would jolt our joy.

With a HEART full of rules that night…
       Have FUN
       Eat healthy, Be healthy
       Always be friends
       Respect my mentor/buddy
       Try new stuff
…we exploded into a fan filled, star-studded lip sync extravaganza.  There was singing, laughing, what some would call “dancing” and a lot of sweat, but the talent-rich performances just kept coming and coming.  The weekend then took off thanks to our partners listed below.

On Saturday night, we crimped our hair and donned our best digs in prep for the FIESTA that Senorita Emily crafted. We enjoyed a delicious meal and a taco piñata before dancing the night away.

It’s hard to avoid the sadness of the last day, but thanks to Parth, Brittini and Em we Zumba-ed away the tears with a finally of dance moves that would likely make even MJ jealous.

Closing ceremony blessed us all with another personality rich expression of the limitless value of LiveUp!  Through words, dance and sign-language we saw a sample of the unmatched elation that can be motivated by nothing more than that precious chromosome that we staff lack.

No two LiveUp weekends are the same, but 2016 #LiveUpSD was certainly one for the ages. Thanks in part to the talents of Nurse Lisa we all made it through. Going often unseen are the countless hours of work that our leaders Emily and Vikki put in for months prior. We love you guys and can’t thank you enough. It’s easy to imagine the fun we had, but thanks to our hero photographer Jake, you can also SEE a bit of it too. The only thing this guy has more of than shoes is talent. Put your seatbelts on and grace your eyes with this motion picture masterpiece here!

A HUGE thanks to everyone who made this weekend possible, especially our friends:

  • Finest City Improv: We jumped right into the fun with Finest City Improv who had us laughing and loving as they organized the thespian masterpiece of the incomparable Bear and Monkey.  Well done Kev and Kelli!
  • Wild Willow Farm: We headed off for an outdoor, organic, educational tour with our new friends at Wild Willow Farm. To savor a tomato that you picked, or a carrot your buddy just pulled from the dirt with a smirk and a “what’s up doc”, is an experience that none will forget.
  • Birch Aquarium:  Already having a blast, we headed to the incredible aquarium where we began a Boston-motivated scavenger hunt (thanks Bendit!) Team SHARKS shocked us all and completed every challenge with enough time left to grab a smoothie at the snack bar.
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: Saturday smiled at us big as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center opened early just for LiveUp to show us that science, like being healthy, can be entertaining as well.  Our LiveUp engineers constructed the artistically motorized “scribble-bots” that we used to create auction-worthy art.
  • Mission Bay Aquatic Center: With newfound knowledge we headed to the water because HEY, this is San Diego!  A HUGE thanks to the superstars at Mission Bay Aquatic Center who taught us to swim, sail, kayak and love the aquatic arts as we hung out at the beach.
  • Synergy; a rescue, rehab & sanctuary for special needs animals: And just when we thought our trip could not be topped, enter amazing and super special pups who were about to give AND receive more love than most canine’s get in a month.
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Keep Cool this Summer!

10378272_473292629482696_5902393052886134595_nHi everyone!  My name is Nadia and I am the photographer for LiveUp NYC!  As summer continues to heat up, I’ve been trying to find ways to stay cool. Last year, I went to LiveUp Boston, and we made delicious Chocolate-Covered Frozen Bananas. And I know the LiveUp Philly director Kerri loves making smoothies…and is famous for them! Since I love sweet treats, I’ve decided to round up some of my favorite summer recipes. They are easy, tasty, AND pretty healthy!

We’re headed to LiveUp San Diego this week, so be sure to check our Facebook page for photos! Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas


  • Bananas
  • Chocolate chips (to melt)
  • Granola, sprinkles, or your favorite toppings
  1. Line a sheet pan with waxed paper.
  2. Cut bananas in half and insert a Popsicle stick halfway into each to make a handle.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave.
  4. Dip the banana in the chocolate to coat it in chocolate, then roll in toppings.
  5. Put on the wax paper and freeze until hardened.


Mango Strawberry Smoothie


  • ½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • ½ cup spinach*
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup mango
  • Handful of ice cubes
  1. In blender, combine yogurt and spinach. Then add fruit and ice until smooth and frothy.

*Spinach is full of vitamins…and you don’t even taste it!


Berry Parfaits


  • ½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
  • ½ cup strawberries (sliced), blueberries, raspberries (or your favorite fruit)
  • Handful of dried coconut, granola, chocolate chips (or your favorite toppings)


  1. In small cup, alternate layers of yogurt, fruit, and toppings.




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See the good in the world

13308239_910504579094830_7815790865385486001_oThis post is written by Phil Johnson, LiveUp Philly volunteer! 

2016 has provided us a laundry list of things to be sad about. That said, I find my resolve in the fundamental good nature of the world unshaken. It’s very difficult to be a part of something like LiveUp and not leave with an inherent understanding of the good nature within people – a layer of quiet, warm-hearted individuals with a pension for selflessness and a will to better something. If you’ve felt, in your search, that these people are hard to come by: might I suggest this great starting point.

You might start your first program, as I did in 2014, with a little knot it your stomach. It worries you are wholly unequipped for the role you’ve volunteered for. One beautiful aspect of the program is that, once it begins, you simply don’t have time for anxiety. You are responsible to another human being. If you stop to ponder how out-of-your-depth you might be, you’ll be late for the water-gun fight. Or perhaps it’s the genius of the program directors that you never truly feel that worry realized.

It’s about halfway through the weekend and you’ve forgotten about the knot because your face hurts too much. You don’t worry about your face or how unsustainable this amount of smiling is in the long term because you’ve stopped thinking about yourself so much—probably for the first time in a long time. You don’t think about things like paying rent or how you look. For the first time in a long time that great expanse of your day-to-day back in your big city now looks more like a bubble. Those little things you would worry over seem insignificant. You’re reminded how to be so excited about new little things—about dancing however you want to dance, about terrible jokes, about water-gun fights. You forget to be insecure because you’re not thinking about yourself.

I’m now back in my big city, listening to news, slowly reacclimating to my day-to-day—feeling those silly little insignificant things get bigger again and trying to slow it down.

No tragedy will make me forget the quiet, selfless people with their will to better something. Programs like this one happen to attract them in droves. I’ve met some of them (we’re friends now). I go back so that, if nothing else, I can learn to be more like them. I go back to set myself aside in service of someone else. I go back to be reminded about what is significant. I certainly go back for the water-gun fights.

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Comedy Sportz in Philly!

We had an AWESOME time at LiveUp Philly and want to give a HUGE THANKS to Comedy Sportz! Nurse Rachel wrote a poem to show her  appreciation!

The LiveUp weekend has been great
But one activity made it especially first rate
First we had some guests come and teach us to act
We loved learning improv that is a fact
To comedy sportz show we went on Friday
Laughing and laughing at all the cast had to say
We got to participate and had the greatest time
They rapped they acted sometimes they even did rhyme
So funny so witty so entertaining the show
We already are so excited for next year to go!

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Meet Emily and Lisa!

image1This post is written by Emily Simino, LiveUp San Diego Director!

LiveUp is a place where strangers turn into friends and friends turn into family. It’s an experience unlike any other and one that has brought me some of the most amazing friends I could ever hope to have! One of those people, is my good friend Lisa Newtop. Lisa and I both attended our first LiveUp program, in San Diego, in 2014. We became fast friends and learned that we had a lot in common! Lisa has attended LiveUp San Diego for two years and is very excited about attending her third program this August!

Lisa is sassy, outgoing and friendly. She loves to experience new things and destinations. She likes to travel with family, but also really likes to travel independently like “when I get to fly by myself on an airplane to San Diego and I have my plane ticket on my cell phone”. Lisa travels frequently, “I just went to Maui and swam with turtles!” she exclaimed as we were talking. She then went on to remember when she and I got to swim with dolphins in Mexico together and she “thought it was a shark!” We have had many fun times together, but the most fun is always at LiveUp San Diego.

Some of Lisa’s favorite LiveUp activities have been visiting the equestrian center and spending time with horses, as well as kayaking and having a barbecue on the beach. Another thing that Lisa loves about LiveUp is “the arts and crafts stuff we do sometimes”. I asked Lisa what she was looking forward to the most about LiveUp this year and without hesitation Lisa answered, “the dance!” which is by far one of the best nights of LiveUp every year.

Lisa went on to explain how much she loves that LiveUp focuses on healthy living. Lisa swims, does aerobics and participates in Zumba every Thursday in order to maintain her healthy lifestyle. She also loves to eat healthy foods like “protein smoothies so I don’t get hungry…. Carrot sticks and celery sticks are really good too”. She has passed on some of the knowledge she’s learned at LiveUp with her 20 year old son, Nic.

The last question I asked Lisa was “if someone was not sure if they should come to LiveUp or not, what would you tell them?” She responded very fast, “that they should fill out the form that says that they’re coming because it’s really fun!” Lisa is so right, it is really fun!

Sitting down with Lisa just made me even more excited for LiveUp San Diego 2016! I can’t wait to be reunited with all of my old friends, and form new friendships with people I have yet to meet. See you guys soon!

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LiveUp Philly 2016: The Recap

Is LiveUp Philly 2016 already over?  We can’t believe that the weekend flew by so quickly.
Here are some highlights:
Water Park Fun: On Saturday morning our group beat the heat and headed to Sahara Sam’s for the ultimate water park experience.  The 13308146_909899835821971_7458525809972320127_ocrowd favorites were the family tube slide and the wave pool.
Scavenger Hunt in Spruce Street Harbor Park : We explored Spruce Street Harbor Park and got some silly pictures doing a 
scavenger hunt. 
Improv Show at ComedySportz: We laughed the night away during the ComedySportz Philadelphia Improv Show.  Todd Pontius one of our LiveUp Philly directors,  was even called on stage to guest star. Stay tuned for a full recap in coming weeks.
Lions & Tigers and Bears: We woke up early to start our morning at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Acting at Walnut Street Theater: We got the star treatment during our theater workshop with the actors of Walnut Street Theater’s production of Sister Act.   
Slip and slide: Our annual water gun fight got taken to the next level with an addition of a slip and slide. 
Danced the night away: On Sunday night we put on our best attire and whipped (and nae nae) out our best dance moves. Some of our favorite included an epic rendition of Grease’s Summer Night and a competitive round of Limbo.
#BBQSZN:  Monday before closing ceremonies our group was busy in the kitchen cooking up salads, bean dips and graham cracker pies for an awesome and delicious barbecue
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who joined us over Memorial Day. A special shout out to ou
r photographer Samantha DiBendetto for capturing so many great shots throughout the weekend.  The weekend may have gone by fast but we are extremely grateful to have so many great memories to look back on.
We can’t wait to see you in 2017!
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Countdown to LiveUp Philly 2016!

LiveUp Philly Boathouse!This post is written by Todd Pontius, director at LiveUp Philly this Memorial Day Weekend!
Salutations LiveUp Family!
Can you believe that LiveUp Season is right around the corner??  In only a few days, we’ll be reuniting with old friends, forging new relationships, and Living it Up (pun intended) in “the Birthplace of America!”  That’s right, 2016’s programs of fun, friendship, and family kick off this weekend with LiveUp Philadelphia!
As with all of the LiveUp Programs, we are incredibly excited for a weekend that perpetually reminds us of our shared abilities as individuals, the profound impact of working together as a community, and the limitless goodness of inspired hearts.  All the while, we’ll be experiencing the historic allure and modern vivacity of Philadelphia!
This year, we are switching things up and staying at the Chamounix Mansion in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.  In addition to being an amazing house in the middle of a beautiful urban park, we are conveniently located in the middle of the city, with the Zoo, Center City, and Old City right in our proverbial backyard!
A few things regarding what to expect from this weekend:
Fired up for fantastic friendships?  Check!
Inspired by independence?  There are great activities to promote life skills in the City of Independence!
Hoping for history?  Philly’s full of it!
Ignited by improv?  ComedySportz is going to give us an amazing show and improv acting lessons!
Wild about waterparks and wacky water battles?  (Make sure you have a bathing suit packed!)
Delighted to dance?  Nobody cuts the proverbial rug like LiveUp Programs at the dinner dances! 
Happy to help with horses?  We’re giving back to Fairmount Park and volunteering at a local stable!
Supercharged for singing?  KARAOKE.
Zipped up about zoos?  #AnimalsForDays
We are so very excited to once again have so many incredible and inspirational individuals join together as a LiveUp Family!  See you this weekend, when we show “the City of Brotherly Love” our collective love, spirit, and awesomeness!
LiveUp and LoveUp!
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LiveUp is ready for Philly! 

LiveUp Philly 2015

LiveUp Philly 2015

This post is written by Rachael Durkin, director at LiveUp Philly this Memorial Day Weekend!

The directors are wrapping up the last minute details as we approach LiveUp Philly in a few short weeks. I always know LiveUp season is upon us when I get texts from participants about the dinner dance requesting their favorite songs to be played.  Or when I get requests for addresses of other participants so they can write each other prior to the program and share their excitement. Or when I see the efforts and promotion around the annual fundraiser – this year being a beer pong tournament to raise money and awareness around LiveUp. It’s an amazing time of year. The excitement and sense of community I feel already is a strong indication of the lasting impact the program has on everyone it touches.

This year for LiveUp Philly we will be having a wonderfully wet weekend, spending Saturday morning at a waterpark and having our annual watergun fight on Sunday. There will be comedy shows, cooking classes, crazy science experiments, theater workshops, and an animal watching expedition at the Philadelphia zoo.

LiveUp reminds and teaches us the importance of friends, how to discover joy in its purest form, how to laugh our heartiest and to completely let go, how to be ourselves and even be a little silly at times (ok…a lot silly). It is also about finding the balance of maintaining this free spirit while holding onto a mature outlook, core values, pride in our independence and inclusion and support for all those around us.  It is a few days where the world is a little closer to perfection and I cannot wait for Memorial Day to arrive!

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LiveUp goes to the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress!

LiveUp Boston directors David, Laura, and Jon in 2015

LiveUp Boston directors David, Laura, and Jon in 2015

Hey LiveUp Family! David here, a co-director for LiveUp Boston!

I hope everyone has been getting outside and enjoying this awesome, warm weather we are having! I for one love to be outside with my friends and puppy and can’t wait for summer to finally be here!

Besides being super excited for LiveUp Boston, we have been busy getting everything ready and meeting fun and inspiring new people in our area!  Back on March 19, my Co-Director Jon and I had the pleasure of attending the Massachusetts Down syndrome Congress at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA.  We had an incredible day meeting all different types of people including motivational speakers, artists, doctors, musicians, educators and friends of the Down syndrome community. Since it’s only the second year that Live Up has been in Boston, we loved the chance to meet the awesome people that make up this unique and fun community in the Boston area.
MDSC LiveUp Table
I’d like to thank the friends we made at the conference and of course our friends at the MDSC!  Laura, Jon and I are SO excited for our long weekend with everyone in Boston and I get more excited as we get closer and closer!  Be sure to stay tuned for more exciting and awesome updates about all of the plans we have for Live Up Boston July 7-10 at Boston University!

We can’t wait for July so we can spend the best weekend of the year with all of our favorite people! I hope everyone is well and I can’t wait to see everyone in Boston!


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LiveUp in the Kitchen!

Hi everyone! My name is Allie and I am one of the directors for LiveUp NYC! We all know how important it is to do our best to be healthy. I like to live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating nutritious wholesome meals! I find it easiest to eat healthy when I am preparing delicious healthy meals myself. Here are my three favorite nutritious and delicious recipes that are so easy anybody can make them!

cookingBaked Turkey Meatballs Recipe


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a sheet pan with oil and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together with your hands. Roll into about 20 meatballs and place on pan.
  3. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes or until cooked through and not pink in the middle.

**Serve on top of greens (lettuce, spinach, kale) or over zoodles for an even healthier option!


Banana Oatmeal Cookies


  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup of uncooked Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or any other sweet or savory ingredient!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix the mashed bananas and oats in a bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. Using a spoon, scoop up the batter and place on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

** Since these are made with bananas and oatmeal, you can even eat them for breakfast!


Cauliflower Crust Pizza


  • 1 head cauliflower, stalk removed
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Break the cauliflower into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until it gets very fine.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cauliflower with mozzarella, parmesan, oregano, salt, garlic powder and eggs.
  4. Pour into the center of the baking sheet, spread into a circle and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Add desired toppings (mozzarella cheese, fresh vegetables, pepperoni) and bake for 10 more minutes.

** Try my favorite combination of cooked broccoli, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese!


Do you have a favorite healthy recipe? Send it to me at! I would love to try it and maybe we can even cook it at a LiveUp weekend!




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