© 2017 by Natalia and Kasia

The Fraser Valley Down Syndrome Society (FVDSS) was created by Sylvie Fraser and Jodie Sewell. It all started when the two mothers of children with Down Syndrome were inspired to form a small support group in the Fraser Valley. There was a high need for something like this, as the closest groups were in Surrey. It grew by word of mouth, with people running into others and spreading information about their little meetings. As it expanded, it became a part of the Lower Mainland Down Syndrome Society (LMDSS). However, members could not always pay the fees required, especially those families who have low to middle income. For Sylvie and Jodie, their purpose and mission was to serve, support, and give back to the families and not make it about money. Soon they separated from the LMDSS.

 

They are on their own and have to find ways to get the money they need to support these families without asking them for the typical money-for-service routine. They have big plans and dreams that would benefit countless families, but can’t reach them all because of this financial barrier. Here’s where we come in.

With Nicole being the inspiration, we wanted to find a way to generate some income and support for this amazing and valued organization. We wanted something simple, not in the sense of easy tasks and management, but more as in something that would efficiently generate a flow of financial support for the FVDSS. Something useful, sustainable, and reliable. We figured we could sell something, and designed a logo basing it off the DS ribbon. We played with the idea of the medical explanation for the genetic condition, and turned the ribbon into DNA. We wrote “Celebrate the Extraordinary” within the ribbon, with the “x” stylized to look like a chromosome. We finished with the quote, “The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is just that little ‘extra’” by Jimmy Johnson, to emphasise that what society calls differences are exactly what make us prized and special. It should be celebrated, never hidden.

 

Through my mother’s Rotary Club, we contacted Nick Jordan, the owner of Creative Embroidery. He jumped right on board and will produce everything we plan to sell. A simple t-shirt idea expanded to a large selection of hoodies, jackets, tanks, blankets, caps, and bags. We created a website for an online store, where all proceeds from items purchased go back to the FVDSS.

 

Doing something like this has hidden rewards that Kasia and I couldn’t have imagined. The feeling we get every time we get one step closer to making this a success is indescribable, and I can’t help but feel proud. This is something that we will continue to manage and expand, and we will always support the FVDSS in every endeavour they take on. I honestly don’t see it ever ending. We have huge respect for everything they do, and it seems only fitting to us to do everything we can to support them. Who knows what this will be in 5 or 10 years, but I have hopes that it will be big.

 

No one should be marginalized. Everyone is unique, and without these “differences” the world would be black, white, and two-dimensional. Like flat fruit loops with no colour.

 

All in all, we are extremely excited, as is the FVDSS, to see where this takes us. Maybe this will grow into something huge. Maybe we’ll inspire others to do the same. Maybe we really will make a difference for more than just one organization. Through all these “maybe”s, I know that we have learned so much from this experience. As a result of this, we’ll be inspired to do even more because now we know we can. Change starts with one idea, and all you have to do is act on it and make your move.

 

During our Grade Twelve year at St. Thomas More Collegiate we were assigned an action project in our Social Justice course. We were told that we could choose anything we wanted, but it had to be big. As teens living our simple and sheltered high-school life, it was tough to think about how to pull this off from the start. How could we, two dysfunctional kids, come up with ideas that would make a difference in our seemingly slanted society instead of just placing a Band-Aid on a sore spot in humanity? We wanted to create a long lasting change...something that we could continue long after our school year ended. In order to do that we needed something that we felt strongly and passionately about.

 

And by the way, 100% of all proceeds go directly to the Fraser Valley Down Syndrome Society!

Natalia's story:

You never know the level of impact one little person has on you until you stop to purposely think about it, and that is exactly what this project has done for me. This “one little person” taught me valuable things I am still realizing today, things I subconsciously filed away and accessed when I needed them. She was actually the first one to teach me empathy, acceptance, patience, and entirely unconditional love, and I didn’t even know it. Growing up with someone as incredible as this person has affected me in ways that still baffle me.

Nicole Fraser was born with Down Syndrome and is the inspiration for this project. She and her family are the reason I am determined to make a difference for the Fraser Valley Down Syndrome Society. I hope that this merchandise brings more than just money. I hope it spreads the word about the FVDSS, and Down Syndrome at large. And to take it one step further, I hope it spreads confidence. My plan is for people to wear these clothes and use these products with pride because this slight difference really is something to be celebrated.

Kasia's story:

When we first started this project, I only had a little knowledge of Down syndrome. Since Natalia’s family is close friends with the Fraser family, I was thrilled to do our project that was on something close to their hearts, and now mine! When talking and meeting with Sylvie and Jodie who created the Fraser Valley Down Syndrome Society, I was introduced to a whole new world. I also had the pleasure of meeting Nicole, Sylvie’s youngest daughter who has Down syndrome, and I was immediately mesmerized by how warmly and happily she greeted me. From talking with Sylvie and Jodie, they mentioned how they loved being open to a “different world; not living in a box”. They see things in a different perspective, and could not imagine what their lives would be like without their daughters. Not only has it changed their family’s lives, but both Nicole and Jodie’s eldest daughter Taylir, have also taught their classmates and friends to reflect on how they treat each other. Overall, our interview with these lovely ladies was not only very educational and fact-based, but also emotional and it opened up my horizons tremendously. Natalia and I plan to work with the FVDSS in the future, and hopefully expand our sales once more awareness is achieved.