Lessons in Joy

We kicked off this year’s Kaulig Giving Cleveland’s Own segments on Fox 8 by featuring Empower Sports in February. “Empower Sports exists to enrich the lives of athletes of diverse challenges through sports and exercise while promoting kindness, character, and tolerance.”

Filming Matt’s interview with the organization’s founder (and my fellow Allegheny College alum), Tom Heines, was a lot of fun! Empower Sports invited their athletes to join us following the interview and held a basketball program for them. This gave all of us present an opportunity to meet and spend time with the participants and their parents.

Anyone who has a family member or friend with a developmental challenge like Downs Syndrome understands the exuberance and pure joy that filled the gym! For me, I couldn’t help thinking of my aunt and dad’s sister, Susie, who was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome in the 1950s and my cousin, Ryan, who has Fragile X Syndrome. Susie worked many years at Deepwood Industries and LOVED being with her family and friends, home cooked meals, country music, hot tea (with a lot of cream and sugar) and bowling. Whenever a family member asked Susie to go or do something, her reply was always “I don’t mind,” a phrase we still love today. Sadly, Susie passed away in 2016, but the thought of her always makes us smile.

My cousin, Ryan, has a more severe disability known as Fragile X Syndrome. Ryan is more sensitive and reactive to his surroundings, but my sisters and I love when we get a call from Ryan. It always starts something like, “Hi, Stace!!!” and ends with “Toodles!!!” The joy and life lessons Susie and Ryan brought to my life and those of my family are immeasurable, and with this in mind, it was an honor to feature and spend time with all those a part of Empower Sports.