45th Anniversary Gala
Saturday, November 20, 2021 from 6:00pm- 10:00pm
DSAGSL celebrated 45 years of serving and supporting individuals with Down syndrome and their families with a fun and fancy gala! Guests enjoyed a variety show, awards ceremony, fun music, delicious food and beer, and exciting auction. The whole event was brought together by our special guest emcee, Rene Knott.
With the help of our in-person and virtual attendees, our sponsors, our volunteers, and our friends at Raising Paddles, Utopia Entertainment, and Anheuser-Busch, we raised $170,000!!!
Thank you to everyone for making it such a special night and for supporting the Down syndrome community. We couldn’t do this work without you!
Our Shining Star Award Winners
Dr. Beau Ances
Dr. Ances is the inaugural Daniel J Brennan MD Professor of Neurology and is the Vice Chair of Academic Affairs for the Department of Neurology at Washington University in Saint Louis. He is an author on over 250 peer reviewed publications and his work has been cited by numerous media outlets (including the Associated Press, US News and World Report, Science, Time, Discover, etc.) and PBS documentaries (including Alzheimer’s Disease: Every Minute Counts).
Clinically, Dr. Ances sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases (especially adults with Down syndrome) and has helped lead a COVID19 vaccination clinic through the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. He has been funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) through multiple grants and is the site leader and project leader for the Alzheimer Biomarker Consortium for Down Syndrome (ABC-DS) which is actively recruiting participants to evaluate Alzheimer biomarkers in adults with Down syndrome.
Donna Calamia joyfully lives her life in positivity and strongly connected to her Spiritual existence. She is the proud mother of two beautiful ladies, Jacqueline (27) and Anna (25). The three of them live in Chesterfield. The Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis became near and dear to her heart at Anna’s birth in 1996. She was born with Down syndrome and Donna’s passion quickly ignited. Focusing on supporting families, educating schools, businesses, and the community at large about the importance of inclusion.
A long-time board member and supporter of the DSAGSL, she got heavily involved in fundraising for the organization twelve years ago when she learned they were in financial trouble at that time. She and a group of volunteers rallied to elevate the DSAGSL into a strong and vibrant organization. She has done this not only by her personal involvement and contributions, but by getting many companies and individuals to understand the importance of this organization’s successful implementation of their Mission Statement. For years she chaired the Development Committee and is still the Chairwoman of the Birdies and Bass Golf Tournament. This event alone has raised well over $1.3mil in 11 years and is still going strong. She participates in all aspects of fundraising for the DSAGSL with grace and vigor.
Stacey Laughlin is a Licensed Master Social Worker at the Albert Pujols Wellness Center for Adults with Down Syndrome at St. Luke’s Hospital. Stacey began at the Wellness Center nearly ten years ago and since then has helped develop, implement, and grow a wide range of programs for adults in our community. Her very popular programs focus on health, safety, and social / emotional development and have been a wonderful addition to the array of services provided in the St. Louis region.
Stacey has also played an important role in growing awareness and services for the health of individuals with Down syndrome. Through her leadership, the wellness center has filled a growing need for wellness services for adults with Down syndrome. Stacey and her team have been wonderful partners with the DSAGSL in ensuring adults with Down syndrome have the services they need and deserve.
Grace Strobel is an inspirational 25-year-old model and speaker with Down syndrome. She has been featured in Forbes, Allure, the Today Show, Good Morning America, Bella Magazine, Marc Jacobs, Veronica Beard, and a featured panelist for Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and Council of Fashion Designers of America Diversity webinar series. She is the first American with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line, and this year, she was given the Women of Achievement award in St. Louis for her outreach work.
In 2017, after a severe bullying attack, Grace turned pain into passion and co-created #TheGraceEffect, a presentation she gives to schools about overcoming obstacles, treating people with kindness and respect, and living with a disability.
Through her modeling and social media platforms, she encourages others to believe in themselves and be unapologetically “OKAY” with who they are. Grace shines a light on how important it is to embrace diversity and inclusion.
Grace lives in Chesterfield, Missouri with her parents and in her free-time loves working out, cooking and hanging out with her friends.
Michelle Sie Whitten
Michelle Sie Whitten is the President and CEO of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (GLOBAL). She co-founded the organization in 2009, after giving birth to her daughter Sophia, who happens to have Down syndrome. GLOBAL has become the largest non-profit in the U.S. working to save lives and dramatically improve health outcomes for people with Down syndrome.
GLOBAL’s primary focus is to advocate and fundraise for its affiliate organizations with hundreds of scientists and clinicians on groundbreaking Down syndrome research and improved medical care. GLOBAL has donated more than $32 million to establish the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, (“Crnic Institute”), the first Down syndrome research institute supporting over 400 scientists and over 2,000 patients with Down syndrome from 28 states and 10 countries.
Michelle sits on the boards of arc Thrift Stores of Colorado, the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, Denver Mayor’s International Council, and Constellation Philanthropy. She has been asked to speak at numerous conventions on Down syndrome advocacy, including the United Nations Headquarters and the Mission of the Holy See in 2012 and 2019.