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With Us, Not For Us: World Down Syndrome Day 2023

When you first meet someone with a disability, what do you see? What do you think? Do you see only their disability? Do you think about what they can’t do? I have Down Syndrome. That’s my disability. But, I am much more than my disability.

I can learn! I go to Noorthoek Academy at GRCC. I love to study and learn all about new topics each semester. I’ve taken writing classes through my college. This has helped me towards my goal of being a writer. I write a column each month for the Grand Haven Tribune. I always wanted to be a writer. It’s my passion and something I enjoy doing. I also learn new hobbies. I recently learned to diamond paint. I really enjoy making beautiful pictures from the pattern and small colored diamonds. It’s a lot like painting by number. I’ve learned to use my colored pencils when I color pictures. I’ve learned to knit on a loom. I’ve made hats and scarves. I give them to people who need them in the cold weather. I’ve learned to play sports with Special Olympics. This spring I’ll be learning to play bocce ball. It is a new sport for me.

I am loved! I have a family that loves me. They do a lot for me. They help me get what I need so I can live independently. I am loved at Camp Sunshine. I love going to camp. They feel like a family to me. At Camp Sunshine every camper is loved just the way we are. That’s the theme at camp. You are loved! That makes me feel good every time I hear it.

I am happy! I am very happy living on my own in my own apartment. I have friends who make me happy. We have fun together. We laugh a lot! That makes me happy. I am happy I have a job. I work hard and am proud of my work. I like working with my co-workers. Because I have a job, I can pay my rent and buy my groceries. Playing sports with Special Olympics makes me happy too. I like being on a team. I like being active. Playing in the tournaments is exciting!

I am independent! I make my own decisions. I am responsible for making healthy choices when I plan my menu and go grocery shopping. I make my own meals, do my own laundry and keep my apartment clean and organized. I am an independent thinker too. I think for myself and don’t just do what everyone else is doing. I try very hard to make the right choices for me no matter what others are doing.

Having a disability is only a small part of who I am. I can do many things like everyone else can. I have hopes and dreams like others do. I am much more than my disability! I am very blessed to have so many opportunities to work, play, attend camp, live independently, give back and have a wonderful life.


Katie Cole is a long-time member of the Camp Sunshine community. She lives, works, and writes in Grand Haven, Michigan.

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