From socks to dreams, NJ group recognizes kids with Down syndrome
Please note that the event mentioned below has been postponed from its originally scheduled date, Saturday, March 21. The tentative new date is Saturday, May 16. This story will be updated fully if and when that date becomes definite.
EWING — You may know about the Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey's annual Rock Your Socks Off dance-a-thon from our previous coverage, but new this year is that funds raised from the event will be largely directed toward a new enrichment center slated to open this spring.
Club DREAMS, which will debut in May on Scotch Road in Ewing, is designed as a place where people with Down syndrome can gain new skills and learn extracurricular activities from instructors trained in special education techniques, all at a customizable pace — and for free, according to Melissa Burgos, DSACNJ president and Club DREAMS' founder and executive director.
"They can gain these skills, and go out into the community and feel confident with the new skills that they have, and enjoy their interactions with their peers," Burgos said.
The new facility will also offer a targeted concentration in the needs and concerns of parents, by welcoming a series of speakers such as authors, doctors, and other medical professionals to provide a better understanding of Down syndrome diagnoses, Matthew Abrams, DSACNJ administrator and Club DREAMS supervising director, said.
Local college students will be afforded the opportunity to volunteer at Club DREAMS, to gain experience in the fields of special education, therapeutic services, and marketing, among others.
"We really look forward to collaborating with local businesses to help bring our members into those businesses with some support that we can provide, to help them transition into the workplace," Burgos said.
Abrams additionally highlighted the participation and cooperation of the Ewing Township administration to ensure this new endeavor gets off on the right foot.
Speaking of feet, the Rock Your Socks Off dance is returning for a sixth year, this time with a country-western theme. And this year, it has lined up to take place on the actual World Down Syndrome Day, Saturday, March 21. The date of 3/21 was so selected because Down syndrome is defined by a third copy of the 21st chromosome.
RYSO founder Amy Johns emphasized that the dance is a relaxed, community event for families, not just people with Down syndrome (no, as one friend had asked her, you don't need to wear a suit). The impending launch of Club DREAMS is the overarching fundraising cause this time around. And the socks, as always, are intended as a symbol of diversity.
Rock Your Socks Off will be 1 to 5 p.m. on the 21st at Cedar Gardens Banquet Hall on Route 33 in Hamilton.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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