Connexions Blog

"Building stronger communities by sharing inspiration, advice, and best practices that work".

It's A Perfect Time to Thank Your Team Supporters

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and many of us have turned our thoughts to identifying the things in our lives for which we’re most grateful. While practicing gratitude should be high on our list of priorities all year long, it’s especially prominent in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Team Captains, it’s important to thank the team members and donors who were part of your fundraising and awareness efforts in 2019.

Team Alex Thank You

There are so many reasons to be thankful for those who participated with your team, in one way or another, this year. They may have assisted with fundraisers, walked with your team, secured a sponsorship, volunteered at the event, or shared your social media posts. Each of these actions can generate a sizable impact for not only your team, but also your Down syndrome organization.

No matter how they showed their support, your team members and donors showed up for your loved one with Down syndrome, and they should be properly recognized.

There are many ways to thank your team members and donors, but the most important element is sincerely expressing your appreciation. You could send a photo with a handwritten note, write a thoughtful email, or create a Facebook post (remembering that not everyone uses social media, it’s best to do this in addition to the notes!). Letting them know the ways their support with benefit the Down syndrome community is also important!

Events using our Stride fundraising platform offer their team captains an advantage in that their team and donor rosters are available on their event site, and these rosters include mailing and email addresses, making it very easy to send out a thank you note. Our free app, Team Snapshot, even offers the option of sending an email right from your mobile device! With these resources, acknowledging the support of family, friends, and coworkers can be quick and easy.

Ds-connex partner GRADSA encourages their team captains to stay in touch with their teams’ supporters all year, sending updates and photos of their loved ones with Down syndrome. Posting updates to social media accounts dedicated to your team is another great way to stay engaged with your supporters. Building a strong connection is important in securing support for your future fundraising and awareness endeavors. These efforts will also serve as a way to keep your supporters informed on all the amazing accomplishments your loved one with Down syndrome achieves throughout the year!

No matter how you choose to recognize those who contributed to your fundraising and awareness initiatives in 2019, it’s an important task to complete before we turn our sights to 2020.

Meet the Super Sibs from our 4th Annual Campaign!

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

In celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we were honored to receive 144 entries for our 4th Annual Super Sibs campaign. These siblings ranged in age from less than a year old to adults, and we were once again reminded of the wonderful impact siblings have in the Down syndrome community.

We learned about fundraisers and awareness initiatives spearheaded by these sibs, we gushed over the sweet photos, and we smiled at the comments mentioning that as awesome as they may be, these siblings still engage in the typical bickering that occurs between many brothers and sisters.

Super Sibs Zac and Sean

While every single entry was remarkable and heartwarming, one particular submission truly stood out. Paula Hannibal from Houston sent us this about her sons, Sean and Zach. Through her entry, we are granted a glimpse into the brothers’ relationship. First, we learned about Sean’s feelings about his older brother:

“My name is Sean. I am 17 years old and I am a junior at Bellaire High School. My brother is Zachary Davis. He is 25 years old and he is a professional baseball player with the Chicago Cubs organization. My brother supports and encourages me the way most siblings do one another. He teases me. He plays games with me. He taught me how to use a razor and how to tie my shoes. He wrestles with me. He’s usually patient with me. He fights with me and corrects me when I’m wrong. He reads to me, sings and dances with me. He taught me how to play video games and how to use new apps on my I-phone. He calls me long-distance and always answers when I call him. He asks about school and about my grades. He taught me geography and all about football and baseball. He talks to me and lets me talk to him (about anything). He lets me hang out with him and his friends and spends time with me. He loves me just the way I am.”

Next, we heard from Zach on what it’s like to have a sibling with Down syndrome:

“It’s everything. There are amazing times and there are tough times, just like in every other relationship. The highs and lows will be specific to your situation. Sean and I love to watch sports or Family Feud together. We love messing with each other in the grocery store until Mom gets annoyed and tells us to stop. For me, it’s a typical brother-brother relationship. It’s all I know.”

Zach also shared what he would say to someone whose sibling has Down syndrome:

“After hearing about what Down syndrome is or what effects it can have on someone, you may walk away feeling like everything about it is negative. I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely a purpose that is put on your brother or sister’s life. They will undeniably make an impact on others; it may just be done a little differently than what you’ve seen before. Isn’t that how God works?! This can be an emotional experience and your feelings are valid; just know that you are not alone in this. There are people very similar to you that are walking the same walk. Feel free to reach out and talk about how you’re feeling. Your brother/sister will need your help but don’t put limitations on him/her as he/she will grow just like we do.”

This is such a fantastic example of the many beautiful sibling relationships in the Down syndrome community! Please visit our Facebook page to learn about all of our awesome 2019 Super Sibs.

Ds-connex Presents: The Fourth Annual Super Sibs Contest

By Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

This October, in observance of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we are excited to once again recognize the Super Sibs of our loved ones with Down syndrome! Siblings tend to be very aware of the impact of having a brother or sister with extra needs, and we often hear amazing stories about how they love, encourage, and embrace both the highs and lows of their relationships with their siblings with Down syndrome. We want to take the opportunity to highlight these examples because we believe that children are the key to the future of an inclusive world. Furthermore, we know that these Super Sibs are key players in leading this movement.

Please join us in applauding the amazing sibling relationships within the Down syndrome community. We have met so many wonderful siblings in the last few years, and we can’t wait to read and share about your Super Sibs!

Contest Details:

Contest entries should be submitted via email to, beginning 9/23/19. All submissions will require a photo with a brief story (3-4 sentences) of how the sibling is supportive of their family member with Down syndrome

We will accept submissions through the end of October. Randomly selected entries will be used as content for the ds-connex Facebook page beginning 10/1. All submissions will be included in an album to be hosted on the ds-connex Facebook page, which will be posted at the end of October. By entering into the contest, you are granting ds-connex permission to edit your submission for grammar and/or length, and use the submitted photo and story in ds-connex social media posts and website. We will only use the first name of siblings in our promotions.

We will randomly select two winners on Tuesdays in October (10/8, 10/15, 10/12 and 10/29), for a total of 8 winners, who will each be awarded $25 gift cards. Winners will be announced on the ds-connex Facebook page on each Tuesday afternoon in October. Winners can select to receive gift cards from the following: Amazon (e-gift card), Target, or Barnes & Noble.


Walk Team Spotlight - Sweet Anna Sue of the GRADSA Buddy Walk®

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Saturday, September 28th, GRADSA will celebrate its 2019 Buddy Walk® in Owensboro, Kentucky. GRADSA is fortunate to have many teams fundraising on its behalf, and with their help, they have exceeded their fundraising goal for this year's event! One such team, Sweet Anna Sue, honors a young lady who certainly lives up to her team’s name.

  Sweet Anna Sue - collage

Anna Sue and her family have been raising money for GRADSA since she was just a baby, and they will celebrate their 6th Buddy Walk® this year! Ds-connex had the pleasure of featuring Sweet Anna Sue on our blog back in March 2016, and we were so happy to catch up with the team once again to chat about Anna Sue’s progress and how they are preparing for this year’s walk event. We had the pleasure of talking with Anna Sue’s mom, Cindy, to discuss this year’s Buddy Walk® event and recent accomplishments.


Anna Sue has been quite a busy young lady since we last checked in with her family! The most recent excitement was sparked when she started attending Kindergarten a few weeks ago, and so far, “she is blowing everyone away!” Cindy shared that Anna Sue walks into the classroom each day, puts down her backpack, and announces her arrival to her teacher and classmates. We just love to hear about her confidence! Cindy went on to share that Anna Sue has “grown leaps and bounds with her speech and independence,” and she “can’t wait to see the progress this year.” So far, Anna Sue’s experience at school has been “tremendous,” and Cindy is very impressed with the support system in their town and school. Cindy is hoping to get the entire school involved in the GRADSA Buddy Walk®. There are several individuals with Down syndrome who attend the same school as Anna Sue. Last year, their school participated in the Rock Your Socks campaign, and several other local schools and the Daviess County Circuit Clerk’s office joined them. They plan to participate in the celebration again in 2020!


In addition to the sock fundraiser, Cindy employs several fundraisers to allow them to reach their team’s fundraising goal year after year. She uses Facebook to reach out to family and friends online, but she also writes a letter to previous donors to ask for their continued support, and even includes a return envelope to make it easy for them to contribute. She drops off an event t-shirt order forms to employers of friends and family members, and their team receives donations as a result of those efforts. Last year, Cindy worked with her sister to host a chili lunch fundraiser. They made 15 gallons of chili, and supporters purchased the lunch and then enjoyed it in a cafeteria surrounded by signs about Down syndrome, to build awareness. The company that hosted the fundraiser then matched the proceeds, helping Cindy raise over $1100 for that event! This year, they plan to host two lunch fundraiser events.

  Sweet Anna Sue - Soccer

This year, Cindy also added a t-shirt fundraiser for her team. So far, she has sold over 100 t-shirts and has even used some of the proceeds to purchase a shirt for all of Anna Sue’s kindergarten classmate. What a terrific way to build awareness in the new classroom environment!


No matter how supporters contribute to the success of their team, Cindy is diligent in sending a handwritten thank you card which includes a photo of Anna Sue. This practice is sure to help ensure the continued support of these donors, year after year!


Members of the Sweet Anna Sue can expect a wonderful time at the GRADSA Buddy Walk®! Cindy sets up a tent and decorates it, creating a comfortable gathering space for her team. Each team member gets a Sweet Anna Sue wristband and carries signs to show their support, and Anna Sue enjoys the walk from a festively decorated wagon. Aside from the fun celebration, Cindy hopes that her team members will see the Down syndrome community and how they laugh and play together, just being themselves, and realize that Down syndrome is more common than we realize. She wants them to see the abilities of individuals with Down syndrome, see how big and supportive the community and organization are, and how important it is to keep those elements strong for the success of the community.


Due to their successful fundraising efforts, team Sweet Anna Sue enjoys the wonderful incentives that GRADSA offers their team captains. Cindy is assigned a Buddy Butler at the event, which assists her during the event and is “so helpful!” In addition to that assistance during the event, Cindy has received a scholarship to attend the NDSC annual convention, which she calls the “most rewarding incentive EVER!” This type of incentive, which offers an “immeasurable experience” to families, helps Cindy stay on task with her fundraising. She shared that it is “amazing to see the programs, support, and specialists” that are available to the Down syndrome community, and spending time with other families allows her to know that her concerns are shared, leaving her feeling “encouraged, and not alone.” By attending the convention, Cindy can make connections with other GRADSA families at the convention, and then bring back what she learns to help their home community grow stronger. What a great incentive; it not only encourages team captains to raise money to benefit their immediate community, but also allows them to attend a national convention where they can learn and build connections.

Sweet Anna Sue - sign  

We were also happy to learn that Anna Sue and her family no longer have to travel as far as Boston to receive medical care. She is doing so well that she can now have evaluations closer to home, every few months, to continue monitoring her progress.


We hope that Anna Sue and her family have a wonderful time at this year’s event! You can join us in cheering on Sweet Anna Sue, and all of the amazing teams for the 2019 GRADSA Buddy Walk®, by visiting their Stride fundraising site:


This post is part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams by sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment, and networking tips. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon! Submit your story ideas to: