Christine Wilson, author of Faces of Hope – A Family Album, poses with her husband, Chip, who holds their son Willi. Sons Charlie, 9, and Willi’s twin Henry are in front. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)
MADISON – St. Margaret Parish celebrated World Down Syndrome Day with a Mass in which children and parents carried the gifts to the altar. A book-signing and reception followed.
The book, Faces of Hope – A Family Album, is a new photographic book about children with Down syndrome with inspirational quotations from family members by author and parishioner Christine Wilson.
"I wrote this book to be shared by anyone touched by a child with Down syndrome," said Mrs. Wilson, a special education teacher and mother of three boys, including twins – one of whom was born with Down syndrome. "It’s a simple offering to help dispel worry and bring hope during times of uncertainty."
Families of children with Down syndrome traveled to St. Margaret for the Mass on March 20 from throughout the area to mark World Down Syndrome Day, which was launched in Spain in 2005 and now is celebrated March 21 to raise public awareness.
The significance of the date for worldwide observance reflects the medical terminology for Down syndrome – Trisomy 21 – a genetic condition in which a person has three rather than two copies of chromosome 21. It is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition, occurring in people of all races and economic levels.
Marissa Piper, from St. Casimir Parish in Terryville, said of son Brody, 2, "He’s a dream." Brody’s siblings, Carli, 11, and Nick, 10, also attended. "He makes our heart burst whenever we look at him, and has brought a lot of joy and light to our lives."
During the Mass, children with Down syndrome, siblings and parents carried the offertory gifts along with yellow flowers. Enthusiastically waving to congregants,they processed down the aisle before placing the flowers on the altar.
A letter from Archbishop Henry J. Mansell was read. In it, he expressed gratitude to those who are working to raise awareness of Down syndrome. According to Mrs. Wilson, one in every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome. Ninety percent of parents who find out prenatally that their child will have Down syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy.
Moreover, she notes that there continues to be negative portrayals of individuals with Down syndrome in the media and among the general public today.
This simple book, she said, is designed to be "a gentle and uplifting welcome to all families of children with Down syndrome, a book that helps all family members learn to relax and enjoy the ride," a book "of hope" for any person touched by a child with Down syndrome – parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and friends, as well as doctors, social workers and educators.
Christine’s husband, Chip, talked about their son, Willi. "It’s a gift," he said. "Kids with Down syndrome are so special. He helps me learn so much about myself and really brings our family together. I’ve never been this close to a child. It’s a constant love that they need, and a love that they give right back."
Currently, more than 400,000 people in the United States live with the condition, with life expectancy increasing dramatically in recent decades from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author George F. Will provided an endorsement for the book, which Mrs. Wilson said came only hours after the request. "When my son Jon was born with Down syndrome, an official at the hospital asked if we intended to take him home," wrote Mr. Will.
Though his son at age 38 is doing fine today, he states, "there still is much room for improvement in the public’s understanding of the aptitudes and potential of Down syndrome citizens… This book, with love shining forth from every picture, will help enormously."
The 88-page book was designed in the form of a photo album. Each page contains an individual black-and-white photograph of a child with Down syndrome along with an inspirational quotation from a family member that share a message of hope, love and laughter.
One such quote came from a father whose child is identified only as Luke: "The lasting thought I have is that children with Down syndrome are here to remind us how simple life is. To remind us of what really matters," he wrote. "To love and be loved is the core of human existence – everything else, all the gauges of what we call success, is self-imposed."
The book, released Feb. 22 by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, is available for $12.99 online from major booksellers or through www.facesofhope.tateauthor.com.