By Jennifer L. Warren
MONTGOMERY – Rose Lisi knew she was going to walk on Saturday no matter what the circumstances.
She was thinking the obstacles might be rain, even snow, but never could she have imagined a pandemic. Regardless, she walked, as did her daughter and two grandchildren. After all, the cause was just too personal-important to all of them: World Down Syndrome Day. Rose’s daughter, Valoree Lisi, now close to 30 years old, has Down Syndrome, but not once has either the mother or daughter allowed that reality to stop them from reaching their goals.
Valoree holds a New York State High School Regents Diploma, works several jobs, and lives a mostly independent life. Meanwhile her mother is a tireless special education advocate, ensuring that students with challenges receive what they need and deserve.
Saturday, the contingent of five headed over to Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery, the site of the originally planned Orange County Think Differently “Spring Walk in the Park” event, at 9:30 am sharp amidst blue skies and plenty of sunshine. They then walked around the park, making sure to maintain the needed six feet of social distance. Some others, also adhering to the separation guidelines, they passed along the way, inquired about the symbolic mismatched socks they were sporting, inciting a conversation about the purpose of the walk, in turn spreading critical awareness.
Among the several community partners involved in the event was 3-21 OCNY Support for all Disabilities. The “3-21” symbolizes the three copies of Chromosome 21, a trademark of those with Down Syndrome. It’s also the exact distance (3.21miles) that the family walked to honor Valoree, along with all those across the world, with Down Syndrome.
“I knew I would be walking regardless of anything on this day, and was so happy my family could join,” said Rose. “I wanted to make sure people are aware of the fact that people with Down Syndrome have an extra chromosome, which makes them extra special, not less than anyone else.”
Her daughter, Valoree, who smiled throughout the entire walk, even tackling some steep inclines along the way, could not have been more grateful for her familial support and love.
“It made a big difference to have my family come out and walk with me,” said an appreciative Valoree. “It was especially nice to see all of them wearing mismatched socks as they did what they could to spread awareness about Down Syndrome.”