DSAGSL has a NEW Intern – Alyssa!

I have lived in O’Fallon, MO my whole life. I am a student at Missouri State University, majoring in Recreation, Sport, and Park Administration, and will be graduating in May. As the Programs and Services Intern at the DSAGSL, I will be helping to plan and coordinate Bike Camp, the Healthy Start program, and the Employment Initiative. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and look forward to staying involved after my internship ends. I’ve always had a passion for working with individuals with developmental disabilities because I find it very rewarding to help others realize their full potential. I plan to combine this passion with my love of outdoor recreation by pursuing a career in adaptive recreation. This would include adapting, altering, or creating the equipment necessary for individuals with disabilities to engage in exciting outdoor activities.  I want to make a difference in the lives of people who are limited in opportunities due to circumstances beyond their control. As a recreation professional, I will encourage my clients to strive for greatness despite their obstacles. In my free time, I enjoy kayaking, hiking, skiing, and spending time with my friends and family.

DSAGSL Awards First Scholarship to Ethan Schroeder

DSAGSL is proud to announce the formation of a new scholarship program.  We are currently the only scholarship granting organization in the state of Missouri under Bryce’s Law, which is legislation passed to provide opportunities for assistance to students with developmental disabilities.

Thanks to the vision and generosity of our Board of Directors, DSAGSL has developed criteria for awarding scholarships.  We are also pleased to announce the recipient of our first-ever DSAGSL scholarship, Ethan Schroeder.  Ethan is a second-year student in the SUCCEED program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  SUCCEED is a post-secondary program for students with disabilities, and welcomes students from throughout our region.  Ethan is one of two students with Down syndrome in this program – both students with Down syndrome are expected to be among the first group of nine students who will complete the program this spring.  We are proud of Ethan’s hard work and determination, and we are happy to invest in his education and future!

A limited amount of scholarship funding remains available this fiscal year (through June 30) from DSAGSL.  Below is the scholarship criteria we have developed, and we encourage any interested applicants to visit DESE’s site for Bryce’s Law as well for additional info. You can download an application for a DSAGSL scholarship here.  Please direct any questions about this program to Jeremie Ballinger at 314.961.2504 or jeremie@dsagsl.org.

Criteria for the Scholarship and Assistance Program:

A pool of funds are available annually through the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis.  Please note that all funds are available as they become available each fiscal year, and that each case is considered as it arrives in our office based on the remaining funds available.

Scholarships are available based on the criteria outlined in Bryce’s Law (Section 161.825 RSMo).  Full details can be obtained through the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education via phone, email or the DESE website.  DSAGSL has identified the following criteria in addition to Bryce’s Law standards:

DSAGSL Scholarship Determination Criteria

  • Scholarship recipients will have a diagnosed genetic / chromosomal condition
    • Including, but not limited to: Down syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Turner syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Angelman syndrome
  • Recipients, within their application packet, will present a documented need both financially and educationally
  • Scholarship recipients will reside within the Greater St. Louis area.  In addition to the defined metro area, Greater St. Louis includes cities that have a recognized DSAGSL Community Group.
  • Scholarships are available to applicants of any age, given they meet our additional criteria
  • Additional criteria may be determined by DSAGSL, its board and staff based on any combination of factors, such as the amount of scholarship funding available or the number of applications received.

Award Payment:

  • The scholarship funds awarded are to be used solely to pay for educational and job training expenses.
  • All scholarship awards will be paid directly to the institution or service provider.
  • Scholarship awards must be used in the 12-month period following the date of application.  Should an award winner seek the renewal of a scholarship, a new application must be submitted.  Previous receipt of a DSAGSL scholarship does not guarantee nor prohibit a person from receiving an additional scholarship.

Grand Marshal – by Isabel Trower

One of our members, Isabel Trower was recently the Grand Marshal for a Christmas parade. She was kind enough to share her experience with us.

“I was the Grand Marshal.  I was throwing candy and bracelets to the people.  The people were smiling and waving at me.  I was singing Frozen.  I was with my family, and I could see my friends. I am so happy people went to the parade and then I get to go to a restaurant.”

Holiday Traditions – by Lindsey, Abeo and Grace

What is the best part of the Holiday season to you? Does your family have traditions that you look forward to each year and hope to carry on with your own family? We thought it would be appropriate to the season to ask some of our self-advocate office volunteers to share how their families celebrate the Holiday Season.


1. How does your family celebrate the holidays?

Lindsey: I like to open gifts on Christmas Day with my family and celebrate on New Year’s Eve the best!

Abeo: Kwanzaa is my tradition. This year it starts December 26 and goes until January 1.

Grace: I love to stay home with my family. We wake up in the morning and open gifts from Santa and family. Then we eat dinner later.

2. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Lindsey: We celebrate Christmas and the New Year. We go to a different person in my family’s house every year.

Abeo: We celebrate Kwanzaa. We sit together, light a candle and for seven days we pray and talk about our ancestors.

Grace: We celebrate Christmas. My family stays home, hangs out and does something together.

3. What do the holidays mean to you?

Lindsey: I love being with my family and enjoying company at different houses. Even during Christmas, I’m looking forward to Cardinals season, and hanging out with my dogs Bentley and Oscar.

Abeo: Kwanzaa helps us study our history. We learned that in Africa people dressed up, put bowls on their head to dance, carried their babies on their backs and loved to cook. African culture is different, and I like it.

Grace: Christmas is my favorite time of year.  To me it is a time to do something special like hangout with our families and friends.

Meet the New Face at the DSAGSL – by Abby Brandon


I’m originally from Morton, IL, known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World – yes, really. I attended Saint Louis University (GO BILLIKENS!) and there I studied Business Administration with an emphasis in International Business.  I’d always known I wanted to do something that would allow me to make a positive difference in the world around me, but I wasn’t sure how I would do that. My senior year, I had the great opportunity to intern at the DSAGSL and from then on, I knew that I wanted to have a career in the nonprofit industry. I continued to volunteer with the DSAGSL Art Club for Adults after my semester as an intern ended, and I loved it! After I graduated, I had the great opportunity to do some temporary work as an Events Coordinator at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. I really enjoy doing events; it can be challenging at times but it’s so rewarding.  I have loved being a part of the DSAGSL as an intern and volunteer and couldn’t be more thrilled to be an employee! I can’t wait to meet all the awesome volunteers and be a part of all the great events the DSAGSL has! In my free time, I love cooking, traveling, and cheering on the Cardinals, the Chicago Bears, and of course the Billikens!

Holiday Toy Resources – by Christy Klaus

It is the time of year when parents are on the search for gift ideas for their child with special needs.  Even more stress is added when grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends need gift ideas as well.  Some of our favorite games have been Zingo, Uno, Monopoly Jr., Life (electronic version), Go Fish, Headbands and Twister.

Here are a few links with ideas for toys.  Also, don’t forget about things like movie tickets, restaurant gift certificates, special outing with a family member or friend and favorite snacks.

24 Great Toys for Kids Who Don’t Play with Toys
Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids
10 Toys Great for Kids with Special Needs
Melissa and Doug – Toys for Special Needs

Thankful – by Abeo and Lindsey

We interviewed two of our self-advocate volunteers about Thanksgiving, what they’re thankful for and how they plan to celebrate!

1. What does Thanksgiving mean to you?

Abeo: Praying together as a family and always staying together.

Lindsey: It means being with my family like my cousins, grandparents and friends. Everyone gathers together and enjoys the company.

2. What are you most thankful for?

Abeo: To God, for the roof over our heads, not telling lies and being together.

Lindsey: My family and that I get to help my mom cook and set up for Thanksgiving.

3. How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

Abeo: We go over to our cousins house, eat and play games.

Lindsey: We have wine and celebrate as a family with all my cousins, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents.

Holidays with Special Needs Children – a blog from Lori Lite

The DSAGSL came across this fantastic article and found it may be helpful for our families as the holiday season quickly approaches.

Click here to read the blog.

Lori Lite is the founder and author of Stress Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety. Her award winning children’s series, Indigo Dreams introduces stress management techniques through storytelling. Lori’s constant upbeat presence on Facebook and Twitter make her a real-time resource for anyone seeking practical advice for stress free living. For more information visit StressFreeKids.com.

Down Syndrome Super Star #11 – Risher Family

In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, the DSAGSL is recognizing individuals or groups who have gone above and beyond for an individual with Down syndrome and/or the Down syndrome community.There are so many superstars in our city! My choice for this year during Down Syndrome Awareness Month is the Risher family. For years, Suzie and Cathy Risher have put their heart and soul into fundraising for their annual golf tournament and for our Lydia Cox Memorial Bike Camp. They don’t do it for the recognition, however deserved it might be.  They simply set out to honor the memory of Lydia, who passed away at age three and made such an impact on them and so many others. Because of them, more than 100 individuals with Down syndrome have learned to ride a bike and now have a skill that they can enjoy for a lifetime with friends and family. Suzie, Cathy and their family also spend every single minute of camp volunteering and making sure families have a great experience. We’re so inspired and grateful for their hard work, and excited to expand our bike program to include our new bike club and a 2nd week of camp coming in 2015! Last weekend marked the 5th anniversary of Lydia’s passing, but a wonderful legacy has been created because of the Risher family. They are Down Syndrome Superstars in every possible way!

-Jeremie Ballinger, DSAGSL Executive Director