Updated: June 3, 2013 3:10PM
I think most of us, sometime in our lives, have dreamed of things we wanted to accomplish, and have envisioned the future we want to have.
Some of us may have realized our dreams, and some of us may still not have fulfilled our dreams, and are still chasing them, never letting them go.
The dreams parents have for their children can disappear very quickly when they are stunned with the words “Down syndrome.” But after the initial shock (which can last months), new dreams for their precious little one emerge.
That had to be the beginning of, and the reason for, Chasing Dreams, whose motto is “Sky’s the Limit.” This fledgling organization is the answer to a dream for its founder, Denise Babjak, to fill the needs not always being available for her daughter, Lainy, and her peers.
In one short year, Chasing Dreams is meeting dreams, with a board that boasts a doctor, two therapists, two attorneys, an accountant, an insurance broker and most importantly, three parents of children involved in dreams.
Denise said that having Lainy opened their eyes in realizing that many of their dreams for Laney could be met elsewhere, but not here in Porter County, which is where they love living.
So, what better way to fulfill those needs and services than to start chasing dreams, and so she did. With their center housed in the former St. Paul’s school at 353 Chicago St. in Valparaiso, opportunities for Down syndrome children from zero to adult abound, and all provided by volunteers.
All the volunteers who are teaching any specific area are professionals in their fields, so the kids are getting the best that can be offered. There is a class for life skills, music therapy, cardio training, speech and language enrichment, math tutoring, with more to come, and with no cost.
As important is the opportunities for family members, such as a grandparents group that meets once a month for breakfast, and couples night-out for parents. This summer, from June 17-21, Down syndrome children ages 8 to adult will be offered an “I Can Bike” camp. This five-day camp will have 75 minutes per day to teach every participant how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle.
Because this is a national program led by professionals in this field, there is a cost of $100, and the need for parents to provide a bike helmet. There will be a parent meeting on June 16 so that time slots and information pertaining to this specific training can be addressed, and questions answered.
The bike camp will be held at Boone Grove High School beginning at 8:30 a.m. and lasting until 5 p.m. There is a limit of 30 students, so get to your computer and email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 299-9049 for information and sign-up forms.
Wow, for a group that is only a little over 1-year-old, a lot has sure been accomplished for every age group.
Every program is geared to help stimulate social, emotional, physical and independent growth. It all starts with Shining Stars for 0-2 year olds, which puts its arms around families who have fears, and questions, and gives the bonding support necessary to find the joy in this “dream” child.
Wondrous Wee One’s is for 3- to 6-year-olds and encompasses pre-academic skills with focus on communication, fine and gross motor skills, and social skills. Again, parents are a part of the learning.
Kreative Kids offers 7- to 11-year-old children the opportunity to develop social and creative sides while interacting with peers and stimulating their music, art, and drama abilities.
As they reach the Tremendous Teens (12-and up), the teens will be enjoying a variety of interactive programs in their community, and learning skills for a fulfilling life.
Not to be forgotten, the Amazing Adult program will focus on fun — movies, drama club, and variety of other events they are interested in to fully blossom into happy adults.
Top that with support groups for the whole family, and it is definite that dreams can come true. I repeat, wow! Denise you have to be an amazing lady, with an extra-special amount of amazing energy. You and your wonderful volunteers are my pet persons of the week. Along with Club Wonder (thank you Kristin Erdei), our very special youngsters will have a lifetime of learning and love.
While I’m on my favorite subject, children, even though Child Abuse Awareness month ended two days ago, please keep your awareness antenna up always.
If, as a teacher, you question unusual bruises on a student, if as a family member, you notice a change in personality traits in a cousin, sibling, or niece/nephew, if as a friend, you are uneasy about the reactions of a child, don’t wait until it’s too late, but rather bring it to the attention of parents first, and authorities if you are not satisfied with the answers you are given.
Every child is everyone’s responsibility. Whenever I read about another little one being abused, my heart hurts — but just imagine how that child hurts inside and out.
All children deserve a great day, so now I hope you have a great day because you deserve it. Thanks for reading. Fly your flag.