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Extra Pride, Extra Passion or An Extra Chromosome
Extra Pride, Extra Passion or An Extra Chromosome
Parenting | February 18, 2021
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In the month of love, let’s delve deeper into the understanding of the concept of chromosomes and compassion as we champion National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.

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February is the month of the year that is full of red and pink flowers celebrating love in so many ways. For couples, it’s an opportunity to profess your adoration for your partner. For #TeamGellibean, we celebrate Miguel’s birthday and the extra chromosome of the light of our lives, Evangelina.

Our first Happy Walk (2013) was a chance to connect with other families and proudly parade our baby girl with our own family who supported us in creating awareness.

Creating Awareness

National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month is the time of year when families all over the country, wear their blue and yellow hearts on their sleeves in order to create awareness for Trisomy 21. We walk in support. We post on social media, and share our stories about all of the gifts that T-21 affords families like ours to create understanding, smash stereotypes and foster inclusion.

Extra Is As Extra Does

At the moment of conception, we receive 23 chromosomes from our mother and 23 chromosomes from our father. The 23 pairs of chromosomes determine our genetic makeup and it is the road map to how we physically develop. Often times, physical characteristics can be traced back to one parent or the other, and sometimes even our ancestors before them.

 

Joey and Gelli: I have often joked Joey’s Momma Suz, that they could be sisters.

Individuals with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of the chromosome on their 21st pair. Hence, the name Trisomy 21. People with Down Syndrome will still look like members of their family, but they will also have physical characteristics that come from their extra chromosome like almond shaped eyes, smaller hands, a sandal gap between their big toe and second toe, and a larger tongue than most.

Different NOT Less

Down Syndrome is not contagious. People with Down Syndrome do not “grow out of it.” And mothers who welcome babies with an extra chromosome did not do anything different during their pregnancy to be gifted with a 1 in 800 chance of raising a child who is “extra.”

Prior to the pandemic, Best Buddies Philippines Ambassador, Angela Batallones was working in Overdoughs. She has been keeping herself busy learning American Sign Language. She was even able to teach a #BBPSaturdaySeries of Learning for our community.

There is a continuous number of growing opportunities for someone like my daughter Evangelina. Children with Down Syndrome can grow into accomplished individuals who contribute to society in real and meaningful ways. They can go to school, graduate from university, act in movies, become teachers, own their own businesses, and get married. All of these milestones and accomplishments won’t come easy for someone like Gelli. The extra chromosome means she has to work extra hard to achieve things you and I may take for granted.

My WHY

Evangelina is our pride and joy. She has catapulted my volunteerism into an advocacy and a desire to serve others. She’s my WHY. She has inspired me to do more, say more, and fight for more, for individuals like her. The love I have for her and all that her extra chromosome represents has given me a sense of passion filled purpose that would not have been present had she been a typically developing little girl.

Brands who take inclusion and representation seriously: Gelli modeling for Laya in 2019 #ChangingTheFaceOfBeauty

She is also the reason why I do so much for Best Buddies Philippines. She’s the inspiration behind #TeamGellibean’s commitment to include. She’s the reason why we are active members of The Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines. My daughter cannot yet fully enjoy the programs that Best Buddies Philippines has to offer individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but we are all looking forward to the time that she will.

Quarantine restrictions and COVID19 has changed the way we can gather our families who celebrate T-21, but it has not dampened our collaborative mission of creating an awareness for the importance of inclusion. There are many ways you can get involved and make a difference in someone else’s life with an extra chromosome.

Making A difference

Here are some ways to get you started:

Purchase these prints that are authenticated by artist, Noel Sadicon, in partnership with The Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines. Titled Warriors of Passion, this series honors our medical front liners while providing support and funding for programs for Filipino families with a new diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Be A Buddy

The pandemic has shown us the importance of family and friends. Things have been relegated back to being just things, and it’s the human connection that has kept us uplifted and grounded during these extreme circumstances that we are surviving together. Reaching out to someone who many not have spoken to “a friend” in a long time, can make all the difference.

Prior to the pandemic, we loved going out and visiting places like Enchanted Kingdom with the other Buddies. Much like my other friends, Bugsy and I check in on one another, cook together, and video call regularly, since we can’t get together as much during the pandemic.

Volunteering to be a buddy to someone who may not have any friends outside their immediate families will lend many more learning lessons, even if, all of our activities and gatherings are virtual.

Choose To Include

There are lots of ways you can make more inclusive decisions in your life. From asking someone to sit with you at lunch, to reaching out to a newfound buddy, and even hiring individuals of different abilities in the companies you work for and own. Everyone has a talent. Sometimes, individuals with different abilities just have to work a little harder to find theirs.

The pride I have in my family, and purpose that Gelli’s extra chromosome has given me, is evident in most everything I do. I am blessed by the continuous learning opportunities her birth and growth has given me through the years.  And while we are sure to celebrate her birthday in August, we are even more excited to celebrate with all of our co-parents during the month of February where we can share with the world just how wonderful life is when you LOVE someone with a little something extra.

If you would like to make a donation in support of National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month, contact The Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines at: [email protected] or 028-895-9642. You can also check them out on Facebook. You can also donate by way of the Giving Hero app.

If you would like to further inclusion or make a donation that benefits individuals of all abilities, through friendship, leadership, employment, and inclusive living contact Best Buddies Philippines through Facebook or Instagram

Michelle Aventajado shares lessons learned through triumphs and challenges in motherhood, relationships, and life, as she raises four children ranging in age from nine to twenty-one. She believes that every trial presents an opportunity to learn, that her daughter Gelli is her greatest teacher, and that as a parent, it is important to instill in her children that they are part of something bigger. 1 Cor 13:13
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