Part of the Community
Coastal BUDS supports families
Often, when families learn they are going to have a child with Down syndrome, they feel as if their world has gotten smaller. JESSICA WILSON wants to ensure that these families feel supported, connected and embraced by their community.
As executive director of Coastal BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome), Wilson is dedicated to outreach and awareness, reaching out to families as early as possible to support, connect, and provide resources and opportunities
“We like to find our families as early as we can- often in the neonatal care units or reaching out to local pediatricians or obstetrics practices. It is important to connect in the prenatal stages or when the child is firstborn,” Wilson explains. “When folks move into town, they generally find us because they need connections to the Down Syndrome community.”
With a background of working with nonprofits in the state, as well as being a mom of two children, one with a heart condition and another who is on the autism spectrum, Wilson feels uniquely suited to fostering a sense of community for families with Down syndrome and bridging the gap to the broader community.
Keeping families active is another mission that Wilson has made central to the nonprofit. Coastal BUDS invites members to take part in active events like its newest program Down to Move which encourages physical activity. At least one activity is offered each month, one for younger and one for older members.
“Obesity is high in the Down syndrome community, so we want to provide more opportunities to get up, get going, and get physically active,” Wilson describes.
One fun activity on the books for Coastal BUDS families with small children to enjoy is a visit to the Developmental Gym at Therapy Works, an organization that provides a wide range of therapies. While members 18 years and older have dance and yoga classes to choose from to keep active.
Another program that Wilson is proud of is the Coastal BUDS I Can Swim program. It is an adapted swim program offered in the summer at the YWCA, and Wilson is currently looking for a location in Brunswick county.
“These are swim lessons that are appropriate for people with special needs and give families the opportunity to do that for their kids,” Wilson says.
Other opportunities include support meetings, training sessions, Moms’ Night Out, and their largest event, The Cape Fear Buddy Walk.
“It is important to get families involved, so they can be with people who have been there before. Any ability to connect with other families is invaluable,” Wilson shares.
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21, a significant date that celebrates the triplication of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome. This year, Coastal BUDS will host a fun community event at Waterline Brewing.
“We want to bring in the rest of the community at large,” Wilson shares. “It is about letting the community know that individuals with Down syndrome live in the community and we need to honor, respect, and include them.”
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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