TRENTON — It began as an outlet for New Jerseyans with trisomy 21, Down syndrome, to step out in public in an unstructured, nonjudgmental environment. It then evolved into a dance party. Now, the Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey's "Rock Your Socks Off" event is nationally and internationally recognized, and thriving as it approaches its fifth year.

Rock Your Socks Off originated thanks to Amy Jones-Johns of the Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey. Both she and the organization's president, Melissa Burgos, have young children with Down syndrome, but wanted to stress that this annual event is intended and appropriate for all.

"We hear through the grapevine that 'there's a village,' and this is our village," Jones-Johns said. "We are absolutely, 100 percent supportive of everyone, but more specifically, our own little babies."

This year's event theme, according to Burgos, is "Our Dreams are Taking Flight," and as always, it is meant to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. The dates won't quite align this time around — Rock Your Socks Off will be at Rho Waterfront in Trenton on Saturday, March 23 — but it will also serve as promotion for DSACNJ's forthcoming enrichment center.

Burgos said the center will be unlike anything previously available in the Central Jersey area, helping people with Down syndrome break down barriers, receive job skill training, and reach their full potential.

Rock Your Socks Off is once again supported by numerous local businesses and vendors, and Jones-Johns said she hopes it will continue to grow in attendance; more than 250 families came out in 2018.

"We really appreciate everyone's bravery for coming out and accepting all people," she said. "This event is not specifically for those with Down syndrome; it is a community event where we could all share and celebrate how similar we are."

See how "Rock Your Socks Off" has grown over the years: Check out our "What's So Great..." coverage from 2016 and 2018.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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