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Band of Angels: An Interview with Cynthia Kidder on Down Syndrome

Band of Angels Foundation: Questions answered by Cynthia Kidder

What inspired you to create this organization?
My son was born with Down syndrome in 1989. The information provided to me at that time was dismal. I wanted to help others see bright futures sooner!

How did you begin this organization?
Using personal finances, I hired an extremely talented children’s photographer, Kendra Dew, to capture images of 12 children with Down syndrome. We created a calendar with the images to show people the beauty of people with Down syndrome 365 days a year. 

What challenges have you faced during the creating of this organization?
The biggest challenge is financial. We access corporations as well as individuals. Half of our money comes from donations; the other half from product sales.

What is the future of this organization?
As we have grown, so have our ambitions. We are serving more older children, teens and adults with Down syndrome. To that end, we are moving toward providing employment services for persons with cognitive challenges.

What advice would you give someone who is having difficulty raising a child with a disability?
Do not acquiesce to low standards; as much as possible treat your child normally. Give them chores, talk clearly, expect much. Enforce behavior as you do other children. All children rise to the occasion!

Who is this website/organization geared towards?
Families of children with Down syndrome and other cognitive challenges; educators, physicians and those who serve this population. We also love to emphasize the importance of Siblings!

Who can benefit from knowing about this organization?
Siblings, friends, families and service providers to those with Down syndrome.

How many people have visited your website and from where?
Our website receives over 1 Million hits per month from all over the globe. We have translated many essays into German and Spanish.

What kind of activities can people take part in?
Direct service activities include bike training and golf.  Each year we provide materials to welcome over 2000 new families and to introduce the joys of Down syndrome. We directly teach 40 young people to ride bikes and 12 to golf. We showcase artistic talents such as painting and piano playing of half a dozen young people at our annual fund raiser.

 What is the most popular product sold?
Still, after many years, it is our Beautiful Faces Calendar.

What kinds of scholarships are available?
Scholarships are available to post high school students pursuing higher education or targeted job training.

How has this organization changed/grown over the past years?
We have begun to serve kids and adults with autism, cerebral palsy and other cognitive challenges.  In our work, we noticed the similar challenges shared by those with these conditions as well as their parents. We decided to apply our concepts to more of the population.

What is Down syndrome?
The presence of an extra 21st chromosome. Each of us should have 46 chromosomes; 23 pairs. Persons with Down syndrome have an extra 21st. This causes many mild changes and some physical challenges for the individual. Low muscle tone and difficulty with speech are problems for almost all people with Down syndrome. Cognitive impairments vary with the individual. Most people with Down syndrome can be fully functional in traditional school settings; this increases their likelihood of learning!

What has your experience been like having a child with Down syndrome?
I have learned more from Jordan than I will ever be able to teach him. Raising him has been a breeze; interacting with the special agencies and staffing has been far more challenging for me than actually raising a child with Down syndrome. That being said, learning to interact with support staff for our kids is not an option for parents; it is our responsibility. Band of Angels helps parents and staff work well together.

How is the community/school life? Are they supportive?
In areas in which school inclusion is common, acceptance is magnificent. Kids understand and accept difference – sometimes more than we think they will. As kids who have experienced inclusion their whole lives graduate and take jobs with increasing responsibility, I expect to see more hiring of persons with Down syndrome and other cognitive challenges.        

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