Like other parents locally, Deb Gavette dreamed of having a support group for families of individuals of all ages affected by Down syndrome. In the northeast Indiana region, families were disbursed among service providers such as the Learning and Development Center, ARC, Turnstone, and AWS.
When Deb learned about the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walks held throughout the country, she discovered that due to the absence of a parent support group here, no one was sponsoring a walk in this region. With the help of friend and fellow parent Laurie Shomo, the NDSS, families, friends, and corporate sponsors, she organized northeast Indiana’s first Buddy Walk.
After learning of the walk in the newspaper and on the NDSS website, other families approached Deb about their desire for a Down syndrome parent group and her dream began to materialize. She then recruited several more families to form a steering committee to explore the formation of such a group.
From October 1999 until March 2000 the group met monthly to discuss specifics on forming this organization. Finally, the steering committee scheduled March 3, 2000 for a community wide inaugural meeting and invited the NDSS to attend, speak, and accept DSANI’s donation from funds raised by the Buddy Walk.
And so the mission began …
The mission of the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana is to enhance the lives of people affected by Down syndrome, advocate on their behalf, provide information and support to families and professionals, and promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome in northeast Indiana.
More than 15 years later, DSANI continues to represent people with Down syndrome and their families in the eleven counties surrounding Fort Wayne, Indiana. These counties are Allen, Lagrange, Steuben, Noble, Dekalb, Whitley, Wabash, Huntington, Wells, Kosciusko, and Adams. We provide support and resources to more than 150 member families and professionals, and maintain a database more than 1,000 supporters.