By Adam Droscha
Lizette Vasquez loves her 5-year-old son Lucas. He’s energetic, he enjoys school, and he just wants to play like any other 5 year old. The only thing “different” about Lucas is that he has Down syndrome, and according to Lizette that doesn’t make him that different at all.
“He plays soccer and tee ball. He’s out there hitting the ball all by himself,” Lizette said. “We all have our differences, but if we take the time to learn about someone different than us then we may learn we’re not that different.”
Lizette and her husband have become advocates and educators for people with Down syndrome. They feel that there is still so much ignorance when it comes to people with disabilities, and they want to provide more ways to educate. The Vasquezes help educate the public in a number of ways, and one of those is by celebrating World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.
There is significance to having March 21 as the date for World Down Syndrome Day. Down syndrome is caused when there is a partial or full copy of the 21st chromosome, hence 3-21. But the significance is much greater for the Vasquezes. March 21 is a day when they can be reminded, and remind others, that Down syndrome is not something to fear in people, but something to be celebrated and appreciated.
“When you have a child with a disability, you want to celebrate what they can do,” Lizette said.
The Vasquez family has many reasons to celebrate. Lucas was in critical condition for his first several months of life. He spent a lot of time in hospitals, and even had open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old. Lucas fought for his life, and as the Vasquezes only child, his life is truly something to celebrate.
“People look at Lucas and see a happy 5 year old, but they also see a fighter,” Lizette said.
The Vasquezes are advocates for people with Down syndrome in other ways as well. They are involved with CADSA (Capitol Area Down Syndrome Association), a non-profit organization that supports people with Down syndrome and their families in mid-Michigan. Lizette and her husband are always encouraging more people to volunteer with the organization.
Lizette also works for Dreamers Coffee, a company that sells coffee completely handled, packaged, sold, and distributed by people with disabilities. This is Lizette’s dream for Lucas. She wants the comfort of knowing that her son will be able to grow up and have a future in a business and workforce that accepts him for who he is. Dreamers Coffee can be found at Charlotte Assembly of God where there is a Dreamers Coffee Café, and also at New Beginnings Beauty and Wellness Spa in Eaton Rapids.
March 21 was a day of celebration for the Vasquez family, but it’s only one day for them. Every other day is another day where they can build a future for their son, watch him grow as a person and individual, and encourage others to learn more about Down syndrome.