By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ) — With October being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, it’s important to note that there are over 2,000 people in our area living with Down Syndrome.

Thirty six years ago this month, a small group of parents came together and formed The Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group, which raised $100,000 from this weekend’s Buddy Walk.

Melissa Silverman, 36, has Down Syndrome and she spent a part of her day giving back with her dad, Jay.

“We were here at Gilman Middle School,” said Jay. “Where we’re going to be donating books to the library.”

Jay and his wife, along with six other couples, formed the group after they were looking for other parents who would understand what their family was going through.

Jay remembers being told about Melissa’s condition.

“It was probably the happiest day of my life. It was our fourth anniversary,” said Jay, regarding Melissa’s birth. “So we went from the highest high to a low.”

Melissa is doing well. She’s part of a group that supplies libraries with books about Down Syndrome.

The small group that started with seven families has grown to 400 people who, when delivered life-changing news, gather together to try to do what’s best for their sons and daughters.

“I’m a teacher’s assistant,” said Melissa. “I work at 5th grade at Franklin Elementary.”

Before she was born, Jay and his wife hoped their kid would be a doctor or a teacher. With the group’s help, Melissa has reached that goal.

“Hearing that our daughter had Down Syndrome, we looked at each other and said our goal is still the same,” said Jay. “We know she may never be a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, and shocking, she’s a teacher’s assistant.”

For more information on The Chesapeake, Down Syndrome Parent Group visit their website.

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