CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Every year about 6,000 babies in the U.S. are born with Down syndrome making it the most chromosomal condition diagnosed in this country.
When Sara Valverde-Calderon was born 14 years ago, her mother Silvia couldn’t begin to imagine what life would be like raising a child with Down syndrome.
”You learn to see the world from a different perspective and she’s an amazing teacher for my husband and myself,” she said.
Along with her love of cheerleading, last year Sara got involved with the Special Olympics, winning a silver and bronze medal in track and field events.
“She has a very strong personality,” said Calderon.
Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Barreto, a geneticist with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, said since Down syndrome was first identified, massive strides have been made in the quality of life and longevity for patients.
”The resources that we have for them the way that they can integrate into a lot of activities before they were very excluded and couldn’t participate in a lot of our activities and now we know that a lot of them can participate in regular schools,” said Rodriguez-Barreto.
In the process of supporting Sara, Calderon became a full-time employee with Special Olympics Florida.
”We provide year-round sports training and competition, we provide health screening and leadership activities for people with intellectual disabilities and the best part is we provide all those services at no cost for the families,” she said.
Calderon’s focus is on doing everything she can to help Sara grow up with as much independence as possible.
”I want her to be happy to achieve all the goals she will need,” she said.
Sara will be taking part in the Florida Special Olympics Race for Inclusion-Miami which will be held Dec. 6, 2023 at Bayfront Park.
To learn more, go to www.specialolympicsflorida.org.