Tina Szocik

@tina-szocik | contributor
Tina Szocik is a mom of three girls. She lives in Boston and blogs at threewithatwist.wordpress.com to spread awareness about Down syndrome.
Tina Szocik

Online Therapy Tips for Preschoolers With Disabilities During COVID-19

It’s been over a month of learning from home for most of the country and it hasn’t been easy for just about anyone. This includes preschoolers with disabilities, who are not only trying to keep up with typical schoolwork, but also trying to receive therapies such as occupational therapy and speech therapy. These sessions, which are now being given over live video on the family computer, are a far cry from what the students are used to doing. Therapy often relies on in-person, face-to-face contact to keep the child engaged. It has been a struggle to keep my child engaged for sometimes very long 30-minute class meetings and therapy over a computer. Some school districts are only just beginning to attempt sessions via computer apps such as Zoom. Others, sadly, haven’t even made an attempt. After four weeks for my child with Down syndrome, and numerous occupational therapy, speech, teacher, and whole-class online meetings, I’ve learned a few tips to help those just getting started. 1. Schedule the session at a time that works for your child. At first, I was accepting any meeting time offered, not thinking my child would be tired or hungry for lunch. I realized she’s happier and much more attentive right after breakfast or lunch, so I start by recommending those times first. If there is limited or no flexibility for picking a meeting time (such as with class meetings), maybe having your child have a snack or rest before the meeting would better prepare them to stay focused. 2. Give your child a heads up. If you can work with the therapist or teacher on a plan for the meeting, or at least an idea of what will be happening in the session, you can relay that to your child so they are not surprised. Knowing what’s ahead can give them more of a sense of security. Checking off each item as the meeting progresses can help them understand where they are in the session. 3. Seat your child in a place they can’t easily leave. At first, we had meetings on the couch. This whole thing was new and interesting to my child, so she was engaged. After two sessions, the novelty wore off and she was excusing herself to get a toy, doll or book. We also attended meetings from the kitchen floor and the play tent. The table where her booster seat is seems to be working since she is appropriately seated and supported, not to mention that’s the most difficult place for her to leave. 4. Allow for a break. If you think your child will benefit, schedule a five-minute break as long as you can easily get them back and engaged in the session. 5. Plan a fun activity for after the session. Plan a fun activity for after the session and tell them what the plan is, so they have a reward to look forward to after the meeting. 6. Know when enough is enough. Therapy via social distancing may not work and that’s OK. I’ve talked to many moms who have tried it and are just not doing it anymore because it didn’t work for their child. In all likelihood, your child is still being exposed to stimuli and even doing things that may be different from what they would be doing at school. If they are active, interested, and taking part in family activities, they’re learning! For more on parenting during quarantine, check out the following stories from our community: Why I’m Worried About Rationing If My Child With Down Syndrome Gets COVID-19 How We Can Promote Continuity in Special Education Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic What to Do When Your Child on the Autism Spectrum’s Routine Is Disrupted by the Coronavirus

Tina Szocik

Please Get to Know My Child With Down Syndrome

“Is Gigi going to start skating lessons?” Her sister’s hockey coach asks me this and I appreciate his assumption that she can do anything any other 4-year-old can despite having Down syndrome. I’m standing with some other moms at Gigi’s school waiting for the kids to get out. One says, “Tell me why kids with Down syndrome get hospitalized with respiratory viruses more frequently than other kids.” I’m happy that she cares enough to ask and I go on to explain that they have low muscle tone and sometimes have a hard time clearing out their lungs. A gentleman holds the door open as we walk into the hockey rink. Gigi has a death grip on a lollipop and he asks her, “How’s that lollipop?” She doesn’t respond so I do on her behalf, but I’m grateful that he treats her like any other kid. He wasn’t afraid to approach her. According to globaldownsyndrome.org, only 38 percent of Americans actually know someone with Down syndrome. With about 1 in 600 births, it’s not very common and the uncommonness contributes to the stigma. It is why many are misinformed and simply uneducated. I was in that position before I had a prenatal diagnosis at 11 weeks. I knew nothing about Down syndrome and therefore was devastated by the news. I never would have been brave enough to approach a child with Down syndrome and ask them if their lollipop tastes good. I would have just fearfully ignored and looked away. The encounters I mention above stick in my head because, to me, they are an example of inclusion. These people were sincerely interested in my child and I cannot say enough how much I appreciate that. If you want to interact with my child, please do! She will most likely engage you. Just like any kid (or adult) you may not get her at her best moment, but your attempt means so much. We are at Sunday Mass and Gigi and I walk together so I can receive Communion. I take the host and then the Deacon bends down toward Gigi to give her a blessing. “No!” she yells. “Gigi, say thank you,” I direct to her. “Thank you, Father,” I say, completely flustered and embarrassed, realizing immediately that sometime in my 12 years of Catholic school I did learn that you say Amen and not thank you after a blessing — and that this Deacon may not have preferred being called Father. We all have our bad days, Gigi and I included. Please do inquire about my child. Ask me questions and tell your children it’s OK to do the same. I will be thrilled to answer. And no question is ridiculous; how could I think that when only five years ago I knew nothing and had the same questions as you? As a mom of a child with a disability, it is my job to educate and not pass judgment on the questions you ask or the terminology you use. I can’t expect you to know how to be politically correct if you are just learning. I only ask that when you learn, for example, to say child with Down syndrome instead of Down’s kid that you try to remember to practice it. Please do speak to my child. Get to know her. When she smiles it will warm your heart, I guarantee it. When you hear her little voice, it will pull you in and make you want to hear more. If you don’t understand her, I’ll be there to translate. By simply doing either of those two things, you will learn so much, and if you’re not familiar with Down syndrome, you may be surprised.

Tina Szocik

When My Daughter With Down Syndrome Attended Her First School Dance

Friday night the four of us went out for pizza without our fifth family member, Gigi. She had far better things to do: her first school dance. A few weeks ago, a flyer came home in her school folder advertising the annual Snow Ball dance for ages 3 to 6. It is a drop-off event so parents don’t stay. I immediately dismissed it and threw the flyer in the trash. She can’t go, she’s 3 and has Down syndrome. There’s no way I’m dropping her off at a dance on a Friday night. A week later, I ran into the director of the school who reminded me of the upcoming Snow Ball. “This is a can’t miss event,” and she pointed to the flyer for the dance. “Really? I didn’t think of sending Gigi.” “Absolutely send her. ” She continued to tell me how it is such a sweet event and everyone loves it. I thought about it a lot. Many of the teachers at the school know Gigi and they would be supervising the event. Every morning we walk into school and all of these unfamiliar faces — unfamiliar to me — greet her by name at the door. It’s obvious they appreciate her. But still, I had so many concerns running through my head. That’s a lot of responsibility they’re taking on to have Gigi at this event. She’s well behaved, but isn’t it my responsibility to decide if it’s too much and not safe? Having just turned 3 a couple of months ago, she’ll likely be the youngest there. Am I overreacting? Maybe I need to loosen the leash just a little. This is the added complexity of having a child with a disability. I worry about her like any parent worries about their child, but I feel extra compelled to have her participate so that she can be as much like her peers as possible. Yet at the same time, they may require additional supervision because of their increased dependence. I decided Gigi had to attend. It became my mission to get her to the Snow Ball. There is no reason for me to hold her back from this social activity just because of her disability. In fact, I felt that Gigi attending this event would mean even more than her going to school. School is expected, even if you have a disability, but social events are a bonus. Social events are where we really test the theory of inclusion. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, all I want is for her to be included. The evening of the ball came and we dressed Gigi up. We curled her hair and got her all ready for her fancy event. When we walked into the Ball, the entrance of the school gym was festively decorated with giant glitter snowflakes and an arch lit with white lights and lit snowflakes. Kid-sized penguins were everywhere. I took her picture on the red carpet. There were plans for pizza, crafts, dancing and characters. So many people were thrilled to see Gigi who was dressed in her Christmas best. We left her to her party and went out for pizza. If only I could have been a fly on the wall. I can imagine the fun she had. When we got back to pick her up an hour and a half later, she had just finished dancing. She took a picture in the photo booth with some friends, and they gave her a hug when she was leaving. Her friends. These children get so excited when they see her walk through the door every morning at school and yell, “Gigi’s here!” That night was an example of true inclusion, and I was so thankful that her school gave their students this opportunity. On Monday morning as I dropped her off for school, a few of her teachers as well as a parent, stopped me to say how much fun Gigi had and how they enjoyed watching her. Apparently she danced up a storm to various Disney music. It’s hard to believe that less than four months ago she wasn’t even walking, and now she’s dancing. As she heard us talk about her in the hall that morning, Gigi decided to start dancing again. Gigi, you can dance whenever you want. I hope you have lots of opportunities to dance throughout your life with peers of all abilities, fully included and accepted in all activities, because you deserve it. This was a great beginning. Follow this journey at www.threewithatwist.com We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Tina Szocik

A Cold Can Be Serious for Some Kids With Down Syndrome

This time of year I’m reminded that two years ago my 14-month-old was in the hospital because of a cold. Simply a common virus. The bill was $31,000 and I’m still not over it. She was hospitalized for almost two weeks. Thank goodness we have insurance to cover most of the cost. The cost isn’t the point, but it does show the gravity of the interventions and treatments she needed because she caught a virus. This isn’t uncommon for some people with Down syndrome. In fact, during the two times Gigi has been hospitalized for respiratory illness, she had roommates with Down syndrome. Gigi is considered quite healthy; there are others with Down syndrome who are much more vulnerable because they already have other medical complexities. I feel like people roll their eyes sometimes when I start talking about my fear of germs, but I know a lot of other moms, especially those with kids with Down Syndrome, would agree that catching a cold can be a scary thing. Our kids’ immune systems aren’t as strong as others. Their low muscle tone can result in difficulty coughing up mucus from the lungs, therefore it settles resulting in an infection requiring hospitalization. Their small passageways in their nose and ears can also make them more prone to infection. I know you can’t avoid the common cold, and I do agree that exposure to colds builds up your immunity. I understand I shouldn’t isolate myself or my kids during cold and flu season, however, this is one thing I do because it often (not always, but often) works. As a parent, I have to do what I can to protect the health of my child right now. In the least, a common cold means a number of sleepless nights for us since the smallest post nasal drip causes swelling and difficulty breathing, leading to one of us having to sleep sitting up with Gigi. Unfortunately, sometimes a cold can do dangerous things. Before I had Gigi, I didn’t think much about my kids getting sick, but now I worry about my older two as well because once one of my girls gets sick, we all get sick. There’s no way to contain the germs in the house. In the wintertime, I usually avoid playdates. Even if you’re not showing symptoms, you could be carrying something. Trust me, I wish I could invite friends over for a playdate and have a cup of tea with a fellow mom. We all need socialization but I just can’t do it, not during cold and flu season. Thank goodness I have friends who understand this. If you have a little friend with Down syndrome or a friend who may be immune compromised, here’s what you can do to help: Cancel the playdate if you or your child is sick. If you have a playdate or party you are invited to and your child is sick, please don’t put the host on the spot and ask them if they think you should attend. Make the decision to not attend so you don’t infect others. Sick children should not attend school. You don’t want to get the teacher sick, or their classmates. Even if all of the classmates are considered healthy and without immunity issues, you never know what family members they have who may be immune compromised. Gigi started school a month ago. At the end of a week and a half she got sick, as expected. She then missed a week of school, but handled the cold and avoided the hospital thanks to her being a bit stronger, and thanks to the frequent check-ins with her pediatrician. I just hope that with her now being 3 years old she’ll be able to handle these colds and become even stronger from it. Maybe in a year or so I’ll be more relaxed, but in the meantime, I’ll see you in the spring. Follow this journey at www.threewithatwist.com. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Tina Szocik

What I'm Celebrating on World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated every year on March 21 (3/21). Fitting, because an individual is diagnosed with Down Syndrome when they have three copies (instead of two copies) of the 21st chromosome. Down Syndrome International recognizes the day as one to “help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.” Many people in the community, myself included, tend to happily celebrate the day and celebrate Down syndrome itself. I feel like there is so much to celebrate. So much to celebrate? If I was reading that statement before my child with Down syndrome entered my life I think I would have a hard time understanding what that meant. Why would one celebrate the difficulties that often come with Down syndrome? Because they’ve taught us perspective on what is truly important in life. Those issues can be big ones, life-changing, but they have taught me what to worry about and what not to waste my energy on. That is only one of the many reasons why I’m celebrating on World Down Syndrome Day. I’m celebrating having risen above a difficult diagnosis and becoming stronger because of it. I’m celebrating that Down syndrome is not scary like I once thought. I’m celebrating the feeling that I am so lucky to have this unique individual in my family’s life, this individual whom I often find myself staring at in amazement. I’m celebrating the joy my child brings me and my family. I’m celebrating the unique physical Down syndrome characteristics that make my toddler so cute – her almond shaped eyes, her tiny ears and nose. I’m celebrating the new friends I’ve made since entering this community, friends from as close as a few blocks away to as far as other countries. I’m celebrating the diversity that Down syndrome brings to the world. I’m celebrating the education my daughter brings to strangers on the street who may not know much about Down syndrome but then see her and interact with her and realize she really isn’t that much different than any other child. I’m celebrating the advancements that have been made related to Down syndrome such as inclusion in schools and longer life span thanks to medical discoveries. Most of all I’m celebrating that I am happily on my own unique parenting journey and that Down syndrome is a welcomed part of it. Follow this journey at www.threewithatwist.com. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Den Kuvaiev

Tina Szocik

What I Want You to Know During Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It’s a month to spread awareness and acceptance of Down syndrome while at the same time celebrating it. Here are 13 things I personally would like you to be aware of regarding Down syndrome: 1. I’d appreciate it if you used people-first language. It’s simple. All you need to do is put the word “girl,” “kid,” “baby,” “person” before the words “Down syndrome.” Just say, “child with Down syndrome” instead of “Down syndrome child.” This is because Down syndrome does not define my child; it’s just a small part of her. 2. Don’t use the R-word. When it’s used, it’s used mostly in a derogatory context. However, the word is even being phased out of the medical community and stripped from government policies. It is offensive, especially to those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. 3. My child is not “suffering” from Down syndrome. She may have some extra medical issues or may be a little behind developmentally, but she will get to her milestones eventually. She is a happy child, and happy children aren’t “suffering.” She’s well fed, has a roof over her head and is very loved. 4. My child has more potential than you know. People with Down syndrome get an education, hold jobs, drive cars, get married and own businesses. And how about awareness on the mom of a child with Down syndrome: 5. I am not unhappy. I love my unique family. Just like the mom who always wanted a girl but got three boys instead and now can’t imagine life any other way — that’s how I feel. 6. Sometimes I do get sad. When she’s with her typical peers and they’re running around and she’s trying to catch up by awkwardly hopping around on her butt because she can’t walk or crawl yet. It’s sometimes hard to watch, but I don’t see sadness in her, and I know she will get there eventually. 7. I’m busy taking my child to medical appointments and having therapists in my home, and therefore have less time to be social these days. I really wish I had more time and hope that people understand. 8. I can be overprotective. I’m overprotective at times because I worry about how others might treat my child or judgments they may make, so if I initially come off as cold, now you know why. 9. I’m scared of my child getting sick, so I’m also overprotective when it come to germs. I tend to get extra neurotic during cold and flu season, so once fall comes around, I become less social. I think it will get better over time, but for now because she isn’t even 2 yet and because she has those small nasal passages and low muscle tone, respiratory illnesses are sometimes hard to overcome, which can lead to hospital stays. 10. I rely on other moms who get it. Many of us have turned to the internet for support in groups, such as the  Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network . We consider each other close friends although we may have never met face to face. 11. I know much more about medical terms than I ever thought I would, not only because my child has extra medical needs but more so because I now know so many others who do. 12. I know someone else whose child has passed away. When I decided to get involved and get connected, I met families who have children with Down syndrome from all over the globe. Everyone is on a different path in their journey. Some children sadly succumb to an illness or heart defect and we all grieve like it was our own. 13. I would love to tell you about my child, so don’t be afraid to ask me questions whether it’s about her or about Down syndrome in general. I knew nothing about Down syndrome before I had my child, but now I’m able to educate and I’ll be more than happy to do so. I won’t hold back on telling you how amazing I think my daughter, Gigi, is and why we really are part of the lucky few.

Tina Szocik

Tips for a Prenatal Down Syndrome Pregnancy

For all of the parents out there that are anxiously awaiting the birth of their baby with Down syndrome, I know how you feel. I’ve been there. I know the emotional roller coaster you are riding. I know how you hate the unknown. There is such a wide range of abilities and health issues with individuals with Down syndrome, but you can find out very little prenatally, and that’s so hard. Maybe you can get an idea of the health of the heart via a fetal echocardiogram, and maybe ultrasounds will detect or hint at other issues, but that’s really all. And as for the cognitive abilities, there is no way to tell. So instead you wait for what seems like an eternity to see that baby. In the meantime, here are a few tips to get you through the pregnancy: 1. Allow times of grief and worry. It will come and go in waves and may especially stir up towards the end, but ride the wave knowing it will eventually pass. 2. Do your research. I know how you’re desperately searching for answers to the questions spinning in your head. You’re worrying about all of the health issues that can affect your child. You’re researching what the impact to your family will be in having a child with a disability. You are wondering what the future holds for your child — what school will be like, can they have a job, what their social life may be like. You’re researching the likelihood your diagnosis is a false positive and probably holding onto a little bit of hope that the doctors who gave you the diagnosis are wrong. This is only the beginning of the Google research you will do. Google will be your new friend, your confidant and therapist. As soon as a question pops into your head you will reach for your phone or computer and start asking Google questions. Don’t spend too much time Googling medical conditions that are not likely to happen. And remember, a lot can happen with Down syndrome, but not all of it will happen to your child. 3. Get connected. Contact your local organization or the  National Down Syndrome Congress  to get connected with experienced parents. Speaking with other parents is how you will get the most accurate and real information. They will tell you the truth. If you’re ready, meet others with Down syndrome. If you’re not ready then don’t. The  Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network  can also connect you with other expectant parents. Reading blogs can give you a real look at life with Down syndrome usually from a parent’s point of view but some are written by individuals with Down syndrome. 4. Feel special. Every child is unique, but yours is extra unique. One in around 600 births unique. He or she will be an adorable baby who will grab attention everywhere you go. This child will take you on a journey most parents don’t go on; some of it will be difficult, but the challenges this child will face will lead you to feel a love for this child that is different, more intense and hard to explain. 5. Use this as an opportunity to educate. If you already haven’t realized it, you will soon learn there are many misconceptions about Down syndrome. Let this child be your reason to educate others. 6. Surround yourself with people who are positive. They will give you that extra boost and recharge you will need every now and then. 7. Enjoy the birth because you have the gift of knowing ahead of time, and really it is a gift. You’ve waited for what seems like a lifetime for this day to come. When you finally see that baby you may momentarily forget about the Down syndrome until the nurse points out how floppy he or she is with their low muscle tone. But it doesn’t matter because you are holding your child and don’t want to let go. You think to yourself, like all parents do, that your child is perfect and beautiful, and babies with Down syndrome really are beautiful. You may not realize what could be happening if you hadn’t taken that blood test or have that amnio — the discovery and initial diagnosis would likely be happening then and there. The shock and tears and confusion may have begun at that moment and gone on for weeks, but instead, all of that is behind you because you already knew. Because of that prenatal diagnosis the doctors and nurses knew as well, and so instead of sadness there is celebration. Congratulations.

Tina Szocik

My Child With Down Syndrome: Defining 'Smart'

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word smart is “very good at learning.” My daughter, Gigi, may not be that. She faces challenges with learning. This is just a fact and something I’ll have to get used to. When I found out during my pregnancy that my baby had Down syndrome, I was initially worried about the health issues that come along with it. Friends had other perspectives. They said, “The health stuff can usually be corrected with medication or a surgery. It’s the cognitive issues I’d be worried about.” Our pediatrician said the same thing to me. There’s no prenatal test that will tell you how much of an impact there will be on the cognition of your unborn child. So you can end up wondering and waiting and looking for a crystal ball. When my daughter was born, I looked for signs. She has always been very attentive and focuses well. Is that a good sign? She started smiling at eight weeks. What does that mean? At a year and a half, she knows about 10 words in sign language. Does that count? According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the average IQ of a person with Down syndrome has increased in the last several years. Individuals with Down syndrome have become teachers, restaurant owners, models and graduates. Early in my pregnancy, I came across a quote that I will never forget. It was written by Janine Steck Huffman in the book, “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives.” She said, “The value of a life, of a human, of a child, is measured not by how much he or she can accomplish, but how much he or she can teach others about what really matters.” “Smart” isn’t everything. There are many people who are smart but lose their way. Just because Gigi will have a cognitive disability doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a lot to teach us. Through her I’ve learned the meaning of one day at a time. I’ve learned what’s important to worry about and what isn’t worth my anxiety. She has already taught us so much about life and she’s only a year old. Follow this journey on Three With a Twist.

Tina Szocik

To the Grandparents Who Are Sad and Confused About a Down Syndrome Diagnosis

To the grandparents who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their grandchild, You’re not alone; other grandparents have been sad and confused by this news. Your grieving might be twofold; you’re heartbroken for both your grandchild and your child. This might not be something you wanted for either one of them… but you must keep in mind: this is a different Down syndrome and not the Down syndrome you might think you know. This is not the Down syndrome from the days when a child was recommended to be institutionalized. This is not the Down syndrome where the life expectancy of a child was 25. This is a Down syndrome where therapies are available. People with Down syndrome now go college and hold jobs. People with Down syndrome can live independently and get married, and are expected to live well into their 60s. If you’re reading this on the Internet, you have the capability to do your own research. There are many organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Congress and National Down Syndrome Society that can give you up-to-date information. Support your own child with whatever path he or she takes on this journey. Have confidence your child will do his or her best. This grandchild will be one of your most amazing gifts in life. Follow this journey on Three With a Twist. The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Tina Szocik

How a Teen Inspired His Running Team to Honor My Child With Down Syndrome

I signed my daughter, Gigi, up for a group called I Run 4 Michael. It’s a group where people who enjoy running are assigned to a buddy. Often this buddy can’t run due to a disease or disability. The idea of the program is to inspire, motivate and spread awareness. All participants are part of a private Facebook group where the runner will post pictures and notes of their runs a few times a week and tag their buddy or their buddy’s parent. Some runners and buddies have been together for a couple of years now. Some runners have traveled to other continents to meet their buddy in person. Some runners have lost their buddy as they have succumbed to their disease. When we signed up, I had no idea we’d end up having such an amazing experience. Our buddy, Aurek, is from a small town in Indiana and is 14 years old. This surprised me since I never expected to get a young teenager as our runner. Aurek had signed up a while ago, but by the time Gigi was assigned to him, he was injured with a broken back. When he’s healthy, he runs for his middle school’s cross-country team, the Miners. Aurek was thrilled to finally get a buddy and learn more about her, but he was disappointed he couldn’t run for her. So he said in the meantime, he’d have his team run for Gigi. Shortly after that conversation, his coach emailed me. This is what he wrote: Dear Tina, My name is Tim from Linton, Indiana. Aurek has informed me of a notable gesture he has made towards Gigi. I just wanted to let you know that here at Linton Stockton we take pride in our school. I was happy to hear of what Aurek had planned to do. So as a head coach and a great supporter of Aurek, we as a team have decided to run for our two favorite people. This season has been dedicated to Aurek and Ms. Gigi. I will update you on our season as we progress. Also, I would love to send your whole family Miner t-shirts. I just need sizes and an address please. Our motto this year is “Finish on empty.” And I can guarantee we will FINISH ON EMPTY for Gigi. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope to hear from you soon. I was speechless. Over the next few weeks, via pictures taken by Aurek’s mom, Becky, I saw these amazing kids run wearing Gigi’s name on their arms and ribbons on their chest for Down syndrome awareness. These kids are just adorable. They also made signs. At the last meet, Aurek finally got the OK from his doctor to run. And he placed second! Then towards the end of their season, Gigi received a package. It contained letters to Gigi written from each team member. We read every letter. They wrote about their likes, their families and many of the children mentioned God and scripture. Some even sent her their ribbons. One runner sent Gigi a stuffed turtle. The whole family also received Miners t-shirts. Aurek is such a great model for participating in an organization like I Run 4 Michael at only 14. We’re so happy he’s Gigi’s runner, and I am excited and confident that Aurek and Gigi’s relationship will last a long time. Thank you Aurek, Tim, Cara and Becky and all of the Linton Middle School cross-country team. Follow this journey on Three With a Twist.