dsa logo
Many people are aware of the term Down syndrome but they don’t know what it means or the difficulty it can bring to a family. Down syndrome is when a baby’s genetic code carries an extra chromosome. This chromosome alters development by causing common physical traits and some cognitive delays. The cause of Down syndrome is still unknown. However, with the advances and research in medical technology they are able to have longer life spans and integrate more easily into society. This week’s Friday Focus we caught up with the Down Syndrome Association of Southern Maryland to learn about how they help families and individuals with Down syndrome come together and the exciting event they host to help raise awareness!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We are a non-profit organization that supports families with a child with Down syndrome or person with D.S. We serve as an educational resource for the public about Down syndrome, provide information packets to new families and host monthly events for families such as bowling, picnics, miniature golf, swimming, Blue Crabs games, etc. We also provide camp scholarships for children, host play groups, increase awareness and advocate for persons with Down syndrome.

“One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common genetic condition. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.”

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: It is a joy to bring families together who share many of the same interest and concerns and can provide the needed support for each other with others who truly understand.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge is increasing volunteer support and corporate sponsorship for the Buddy Walk event.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Our biggest fundraiser event is our annual Buddy Walk. This year’s Buddy Walk will take place Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Gilbert Run Park in Charlotte Hall, Maryland. Get involved and be inspired!

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We are always looking for volunteers to help out throughout the year, as well as, during the Buddy Walk. Contact us through our website at www.dsasmd.org or through our Facebook page.

compassionate friends logo
Compassionate Friends, Fredericksburg, VA Chapter
is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, friendship and understanding for families or individuals who have experienced the death of a child. They provide the opportunity to talk about their child, other family members and feelings as they go through the grieving process. Their sole purpose is not to focus on the death itself but to have others around who can relate and offer solace during this difficult time. Compassionate friends lends support for those who need to express their feelings freely and is not affiliated with any particular religion. This week we caught up with Kathie Kelly, Chapter Leader, for this week’s Friday Focus to discover what great support Compassionate Friends has to offer.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: We are a self-help organization offering friendship, understanding and hope to bereaved families that have experienced the death of a child.  We service Fredericksburg, Stafford, King George, Colonial Beach, Westmoreland County, Caroline County, Spotsylvania County, Orange, Culpeper and Dahlgren.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Our organization helps the community by providing a safe place for families who have lost children to come, share and get support.  We meet the 3rd Tuesday’s of each month at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, VA. We are non-profit and meetings are free. We also offer support through phone support and visiting the bereaved.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The biggest challenge is getting the word out to the community to ensure people know we exist and they are not alone. We also struggle getting funds for our organization, as we are non-profit, we rely on donations to help support our group for the newsletters, meetings, outreach materials such as books and brochures and for our memorial candle lighting.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Chapter Meeting on May 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM. Location is Redeemer Lutheran Church, 5120 Harrison Road, Fredericksburg, VA.

A: TCF Annual Candle Lighting Memorial Program on December 11, 2016 same location as the meetings.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: The bereaved families who have suffered a loss of child/children can come to any meeting as it is free and open to the public.  Visit our site Compassionate Friends for more details.

christmas in april logo
Christmas doesn’t just fall in December but in April too – join us for this week’s Friday Focus, Christmas in April! We caught up with Darene Kleinsorgen, Executive Director of Christmas in April, St. Mary’s County, to learn all about the impact this organization has on the community and individual lives. Christmas in April gives low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners, the chance at a better home life by providing the materials, labor and money that they need to repair or add to their home. In doing so, they bring happiness and comfort to hundreds of people each year. Christmas in April is all about “neighbors helping neighbors,” next time you’re looking for something to do, check out Christmas in April and see how you can lend a neighborly hand.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: Christmas in April St. Mary’s County, Inc. is a volunteer organization that, in partnership with the community, rehabilitates the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and disabled, so that they may live in warmth, safety and independence. We also provide help through work on community projects. Our mission is to bring volunteers and our community together to improve the homes and lives of our homeowners. We have served the community since 1991 and 2015 was our 25th year. In that time we have repaired 542 homes and 14 nonprofit facilities.  More than 36,900 volunteers have shared their talents and expertise to do over $5 million worth of free repairs! The success of this program is dependent upon the monetary contributions, materials, equipment and labor donated by local companies, organizations, churches and individuals.  Our repairs include but are not limited to handicap renovations, plumbing, electrical, heating, roofing, walls, doors, floors, windows, weatherization and painting.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: My favorite moments are when you see how you have changed the quality of life of a homeowner in one day.  The reward is the smile a homeowner has when she can roll her wheelchair outside and sit in the sunshine on her new porch.  Our homeowners are unable to do the simple upkeep on their home due to age, finances or health and are so grateful for hand up.  I just talked to a homeowner who had no heat in her home and we had an entire heating system donated and installed, she was almost crying she was so overwhelmed at having heat.  We install a lot of ramps to enable the homeowner to get in and out of their homes easily.  It is amazing how much difference a few volunteers and some materials can make in a person’s life.  It is a very rewarding experience.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge is getting the funding to be able to help our homeowners year after year.  We had 72 applications last year, so there is definitely a need in the county.  We will be doing 15 homes and one community project this year on April 30.   The cost of materials goes up every year so it is a challenge to get them at the best price possible.  We also always in need of skilled trades to help us: roofers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, carpet installers, etc.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: St. Mary’s College is having a “Du the Point” duathlon on April 9 to benefit CIA.  We are having our 3rd annual 5Krun/3K walk on October 1 in Charlotte Hall.  On October 5 CMI General Contractors will be hosting their 20th Annual Golf Tournament to benefit CIA.  On October 9 Southern MD Antique Power Association will host their 7th Annual Tractor Parade in Leonardtown to benefit CIA.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: We have about 1,200 volunteers on “Neighbors helping Neighbors” day who work on our projects.  Our meetings are the third Wednesday of the month at 6PM at Tolerance Hall on St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds.  (we do not meet in July or August).  The meetings are open to the public, so come out and see what we are doing and join a committee!

robotics
The Anne Arundel Homeschool Robotics Group is a self-funded group of homeschooled individuals who are trying to improve and excel in science and technology. This program gives students the opportunity to compete, learning not only programming and engineering but business and presentation skills as well. This week’s Friday Focus we caught up with Aileen Hahne, President of the Anne Arundel Homeschool Robotics Group, and learned how these students are provided mentors and professionals to help them achieve goals they never thought imaginable.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A:  We are a 501(c)3 non-profit to promote STEM activities throughout the homeschool communities of Anne Arundel and Prince George counties.  We currently sponsor a high school robotics team, FTC 4081, finance their competition fees, supplies for the team, parts for their robot and travel fees.  Our team is comprised of nine boys and one girl.  In the past we have sponsored teams through FLL and JrFLL for students in grades K-8 as well.  All these teams compete in the series of competitions through FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology).  The FIRST World Championship is in St. Louis this year and you can find out more information about our program by visiting their website here:  www.usfirst.org

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: My favorite moment is when I can turn a student around from being afraid of math or engineering and see the excitement on their faces when they accomplish a task they thought to be impossible.  Most of these kids are truly gifted, yet there are very few outlets where they can showcase their ideas or creations.  Having professionals in the fields of science, engineering and computer technology come to judge their competitions gives them the confirmation that what they are doing is truly significant.  Currently, there are three former students who all happen to be female who didn’t think they were “smart” enough to join a robotics team.  Now those young women are majoring in electrical engineering, computer science and business management.  This robotics program positively changed their future, as well as the future of everyone involved.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge is two-fold.  Each year we struggle to find a meeting place.  This past year we were in a team member’s garage.  With the need for a workshop to cut metal and plexiglass, as well as clean space for using our computers for CAD (computer aided design). The ideal workspace would have two rooms: one large room for meetings, testing the robot, setting up the competition field and a second room for a workshop where the students can cut, drill, grind and fabricate unique design pieces for their robot each year.  Every year the challenge changes which means manufacturing parts every year.

Our second challenge is mentors for the engineering design process. We have coaches and parents willing to invest the time into these students, but finding mentors for engineering and computer programming is an ongoing struggle.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  The current Maryland FTC 2015-2016 season has ended but the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis will be next week, April 27-30.  Anyone can watch the action live via their website  http://www.firstinspires.org/

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Anyone interested in getting involved may contact Aileen Hahne at ahahne@ftcteam4081.com.

We are always looking for any help. The team can also come and demonstrate our robot and explain what the FIRST Tech Challenge is all about.  These students don’t just build a robot.  They must create a business plan, create a team image, promote themselves, maintain a detailed engineering notebook where they document their progress throughout the season and finally create an oral presentation for the Judges at each competition where every team member must contribute.  The goal of FIRST is to educate the whole person, helping students become well-rounded engineers, business managers, computer programmers, or public speakers.  It is an amazing program.