Changes at the DSAGSL

Effective January 6, 2016, there will be a major change taking place at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis.  Please see the note below from Jeremie Ballinger regarding this news.  Direct any questions to our office at 314.961.2504.

 

Dear Friends:

This is already so much harder to write than expected.  But here goes: As of January 6, DSAGSL will have a new Executive Director.  My last day in the office serving you will be Tuesday, January 5.  To say this decision is bittersweet is the understatement of the year.  But as wrong as it feels, it truly is the right move.  We are moving back to my hometown of Kansas City to be closer to family.  This has been on our hearts for a while, and has become even more necessary in the past few months. 

To be quite honest, staying in St. Louis this long wasn’t always the plan.  But this city…man, it has a way of growing on you, doesn’t it?  The people are so gracious and generous.  There are so many wonderful places to see and traditions to enjoy.  And let’s be honest here, the food scene has “grown on me” by more than a few pounds.  But what truly made this home is the way our DSAGSL family has welcomed and embraced us from day one.  My stance has always been that St. Louis does more for its disability community than anyone in the country.  The DSAGSL family embodies that perfectly. You are the most dedicated, caring group of people I’ve ever seen.  Regardless of who leads this organization, the reason we get national awards and grow so quickly is still here.  It’s because of you – our families, our volunteers, and especially our self-advocates – and I’m so thankful for that.          

I’m also excited to know that our next 40 years will be brighter than ever because of the group continuing to lead DSAGSL.  Our Board of Directors has created a wonderful vision for the organization, and puts in hundreds of hours each year behind the scenes to bring that vision to life.  It’s been an honor to work alongside them. And our staff is hands down the best Down syndrome staff in the country – don’t let anyone even attempt to tell you otherwise.  Seeing other organizations around the country makes me even more proud of the group we have here.  Nobody works harder or brings more knowledge, passion and professionalism to the table, period.  Which makes this next sentence such a joy to write…

I’m thrilled to share with you that Erin Suelmann, formerly our Director of Programs & Services, will be DSAGSL’s Executive Director starting January 6.  Erin’s leadership directing our programming has been beyond impressive, and she simply never stops working to make this place better.  She also has experience as an Executive Director, and as you probably know is motivated daily by her brother who has Down syndrome.  It was only a matter of time until Erin was asked to lead an organization, and thankfully it will be DSAGSL.  You’ll hear from her soon, and I know will continue enjoying to work with her and our entire staff as we look forward to our next 40 years.

Thank you again so much for supporting this organization, and for making the experience of serving you so memorable.  This is absolutely a “see you later” rather than a farewell.  We can’t wait to see everyone again soon.

With so much respect,

Jeremie

DSAGSL Volunteers of the Year

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  ~Leo Buscaglia

 

 

What better time than the holidays to let people know you are thankful for them. We here at the DSAGSL could not be more thankful for the amazing volunteers we have. Indeed, we would not be able to do our work without them! We are thrilled to announce our 2015 Volunteers of the Year. These individuals were nominated for one of three categories: Special Events, Programs and Community Groups. Read about our amazing volunteers below!

Laura Bontty – Program Volunteer for 9 years
“Laura has been a familiar face at the DS Center for 9 years! Once a month, Laura meets with families to make sure they are connected to the DSAGSL. Laura has also volunteered as a New Parent Support mentor and at the New Mother’s Luncheon. She has logged nearly 500 hours of volunteer service for the DSA! We truly appreciate our volunteers who make this type of commitment to our organization.”

Sally Simmons – Program Volunteer for 7 years
“Sally has been meeting with families at the DS Center for 7 years. Sally helps families stay connected with the DSA during their visit. She has also volunteered at Step Up for Down Syndrome and has given nearly 400 hours of service in a variety of programs over the years!”

Kristin Muckerman – Community Group Volunteer for 3+ Years
“Kristin has been leading the St. Charles Community Group for over three years both independently and in partnership with other leaders. Las year she lost her co-leader and, despite being a busy mom, kep the group running and meting. The group has offered scholarships, held educational and recreational activities. It has been a consistent group for the area for many years and Kristin has helped to keep it going strong!”

Donna Battershell – Special Events Volunteer for 3 Years
“Donna is a wonderful asset to our office. She has been volunteering on Monday mornings from 9am – 1pm for the past three years. Being in the office on a weekly basis means that Donna has worked on just about every event or project that we’ve undertaken. Donna has worked on many, many mailings, tracked ticket orders, packaged t-shirt/ ticket orders, helped with creating packets/copies for trivia night, and been here every week to help with any task needed. In last year’s move to our new office, Donna took charge of packing our extensive library. She continues to work on cataloging and updating our resource library. We are very fortunate to have Donna’s time, skill and experience.

Meet Andi – New DSAGSL Program Coordinator

I am Andrea (Andi) McCormick and I am so excited to be a part of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. I began my career as a special education teacher at United Services for Children teaching children of all abilities ages 3-5. After having children of my own I worked as part of the First Steps of Missouri as a developmental therapist for children with developmental delays ages birth to three.

I enjoy many things in life, especially being a wife and mother. My husband Doug and I have been married since 2000 and we have two amazing children, Maya and Bennett. I find no greater joy than being their mom! We enjoy traveling together and spending time outdoors.

I began looking for a place to volunteer my time and energy working with people with Down syndrome and I landed at DSAGSL. I was blessed to be invited to lead the infant and toddler therapeutic play group. After 18 months of volunteering I am excited to be a part of the staff and look forward to learning, growing, and being a part of DSAGSL!

Sports Camp Experience – by Lindsey Hawkins

Last week, I went to sports camp. Everyone came in on Sunday mid-afternoon and there were different groups. The theme for the week was Super Heroes. I was home sick on Sunday evening. On Monday it took me awhile to get up, because I get up at 6am to walk on the track every morning. We start to play sports in the morning. We play sports like soccer, flag football, swimming, tennis, and golf. We then play different sports in the afternoon each day. We also did biking, bows and arrows, lawn games, kickball, noodle hockey and fishing.

In the evenings, we all did night activities. Monday night we watched Batman for movie night. Tuesday was trivia night and the leaders had to take away our cellphones, so we didn’t cheat! On Wednesday evening we had to find different pieces around sports camp. On Thursday evening was a dance. The ladies wore dresses or hero outfits. Our leaders got nail polish and did our nails before the dance.

On Tuesday I caught a 6-inch blue gill on fishing day. Some other athletes got snapping turtles on their hooks that were so big. On Thursday morning the leader of the Hulk group got in the mud. We had to take off our shoes and socks and we ended up getting mud all over our legs and feet. Our Hulk leader got mud all over his shorts that day. On Friday, was the noodle hockey competition.  We played like a team. We had six people in at a time and six people out. We played against different hero groups. The staff also played, but they cheated during the noodle hockey competition.

During the dance on Friday night, someone bubble wrapped two beds together in the Hulk group leaders room, put glitter all over the floors, and stickers on the walls. The Hulk group members helped out by cleaning the room at sports camp.

The showers at sports camp were super cold on Thursday night, but we got warm showers the rest of the week. On Friday, we had graduation. We got a new shirt, a team picture and a picture with our fish or snapping turtle. It was a great time!

Thinking about joining us for Birdies & Bass?

Letter from Jeremie Ballinger, Executive Director

It hardly feels like it outside lately, but we are well into August and quickly approaching a very important day on our calendar.  Monday, August 31 is DSAGSL’s 5th Annual Birdies & Bass Golf Tournament.  If you aren’t already planning to join us at Persimmon Woods Golf Club, please consider making the time to come out and be a part of the day!

Birdies & Bass is one of our signature events that support DSAGSL’s mission to provide support, education and advocacy for our local Down syndrome community.  The event includes a fishing tournament, where participants enjoy time out on the lake alongside our self-advocates, as well as golf and a live auction featuring wonderful experiences and items for bid.  There are a number of ways you can get involved:

-       If you play golf, you’re in luck!  Currently about six foursomes remain in our event.  Individual golfers are also welcome, as we can help place you on a team.

-       We need self-advocates! People with Down syndrome tell the story of our mission better than anyone. There is room for many self-advocates to fish and be a part of the day.  Half or full day opportunities are available based on your schedule.

-       Finally, we still have a need for several volunteers during the event. You don’t have to know or even like golf to take part.  Our staff will be happy to work with you and connect you to some of the most kind, giving people we know. It’s truly a great day to celebrate Down syndrome, no matter how you feel about fishing or golf.

If you’d like to learn more about Birdies & Bass, please contact us (314.961.2504 or jeremie@dsagsl.org). We hope to see you there!

Friendly Face with a Heart to Match – Jasimine Johnson

Hola! My name is Jasimine Johnson. I am currently an intern here at DSAGSL. I am the first out of my family to graduate high school and attend college. I love animals, people, traveling and trying different things. My everyday hobbies are playing sports, writing, reading, working, singing, and dancing. In high school, I was a part of every team you can think of from wrestling to orchestra.  I am very out-going and optimistic once I warm up to people. I love meeting new people, however I am very shy. (Not sure how that works, but it does). I have a smile that will brighten up your day and a heart to fill in the gaps.  My dream in life is to become a manager of my own business, Tax Consultant, or Assistant to an Executive in a Corporation. I also have started writing my own book about my life and would love to get it published one day.

I graduated from Florissant Valley Community College with honors. I received my Associate’s Degree right out of high school and now working toward my Bachelor’s Degree at The University of Missouri-St. Louis.  I am majoring in Business Administration; however, I am uncertain about what I want to emphasis in. Not sure if it will be Marketing, Management, Finance, or Accounting. I enjoy school and learning different things. Being able to encourage someone else is what motivates me. I enjoy working with people of all ages and just being a part of a team. I love to be busy doing something and make goals that I work toward every day. I speak the truth to others about real life decisions and how important it is to succeed in life.

I hope to really enjoy this semester here at DSAGSL and I hope they will have me back again!

Camp Barnabas – by Paige Brune

When I was at Camp Barnabas, I conquered three fears.

One of the fears was swimming in the deep end of the pool when I took the swim test for camp.

The second fear is canoeing. I sat in the middle of a canoe. The pond felt great, and I had a lot of fun. We also got to fish there.

Finally, the last of my fears I overcame was being in a bounce house. I was nervous at first, but then I went in with a buddy. It was a lot of fun!

The camp was awesome, and I had a great time there. I met some new friends and my favorite thing to do was the wrap ups and lessons.

Nominate an Outstanding Volunteer

Do you know a loyal DSAGSL volunteer who regularly goes above and beyond their duties? Nominate them for a 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Award!

Are you a devoted DSAGSL volunteer yourself? Self-nominations are allowed!

Please send completed forms to abby@dsagsl.org by August 31. Honorees will be recognized at the Talent Show on October 9. (Note: Current Board of Directors members are not eligible.)

Click here to download the form and nominate an Outstanding Volunteer!

 

Dierbergs School of Cooking – by Megan Layton

I participated in the School of Cooking at Dierbergs on June 10. There was a great turnout, 14 people attended. Dierbergs has had the cooking class for eight years. The class was hosted by Sally and Dennis.

Sally and Dennis were very informative. They had awesome visual aids, cooking utensils and taught us how to use them by telling us and demonstrating.They were very prepared and very organized and seemed to know exactly how to simplify what they were doing to make it easier to learn.

It was temping to eat everything I made. All the cooking made me hungry!

We prepared and ate italian tomato bruschetta, fresh and light caesar salad, chicken spidini, green beans with crisp crumb topping and a side of cheddar au gratin potatoes. For dessert, we had red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Why Attend the Annual Meeting?

Letter from Jeremie Ballinger, Executive Director

Dear Friends:

We are a matter of days away from a DSAGSL tradition – our Annual Meeting.  The meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 22 at our office.  We’re happy to provide food beginning at 6:00pm, with the meeting itself to start at 6:30pm.  Hopefully you have seen a postcard or a social media mention about this event and plan to attend.

Except, you may have one small question before you decide to join us: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THE ANNUAL MEETING, AND WHY DO I NEED TO BE THERE?

Good question.

We accomplish several things at our annual meeting:

1. We provide you with a recap of what we have accomplished over the past year.  This year will be especially fun, in that we have just completed one of our most successful years ever and have the numbers and the awards to prove it!

2. We will also give you a glimpse into the coming year – what we have planned, and how we intend to grow and serve you better.

3. This year, we will also welcome Dr. Michael Harpold from the Lumind Down Syndrome Research Foundation to share some of the latest news regarding cognition research.  Like DSAGSL, Lumind has had a very eventful year and we look forward to learning more about their work.

4. We will also present to everyone in attendance our proposed Board of Directors for 2015-16, including board leadership.  This requires a vote of our membership – which includes you!

Finally, and most importantly, this meeting is required in DSAGSL’s bylaws.  We are an organization made up of many members, and each of you have the right to know what has been done, what will be done, and also to have a voice in issues such as our leadership.

If you have any other questions about our past year, what we hope to accomplish next, or anything else related to DSAGSL and how we operate, please call or send me an email.  If you would like to attend the annual meeting, please RSVP to us at info@dsagsl.org or 314.961.2504.  This is your organization, and we want to give you every opportunity to assist us in making sure we help people with Down syndrome reach their full potential.

We hope to see you next week at our annual meeting!