STARS at the Trail: Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas
We’re showcasing our STARS at the Trail organizations in a holiday blog post series to help Austinites get to know the nonprofits that are dedicated to serving Austin’s most deserving citizens. Today, we’re featuring Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas.
About Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas (DSACT)
The DSACT vision is a world in which all members, including those with Down syndrome, are accepted, valued for their uniqueness, respected for their abilities and contributions, and assured the opportunity and choice to create their own path to fulfillment and success.
DSACT members truly look forward to the Stars at the Trail Program! One of the parents who participated in with her whole family said the experience was “so incredible.” The VIP attention, from the transportation to the cookies and crafts, makes all the difference. Many DSACT members deal with sensory sensitivities so enjoying the trail when it’s a little less crowded and avoiding lines means everything to them. Without Stars at the Trail, many DSACT families would be hesitant to go.
Advocates for Inclusiveness and new experiences
Tell us about your organization: What is its mission/what are you most passionate about?
Our mission is to provide education, support, and resources to individuals with Down syndrome, their families and professionals and the community, while also building public awareness and acceptance of the abilities of individuals with Down syndrome. Put simply, DSACT advocates for inclusive activities and education for those who lives have been touched by Down syndrome, provides engaging programs, and shares timely resources with the broader community.
What are three things you want the community to know about your organization?
DSACT has something for everyone in the community. Our members include individuals with Down syndrome and their immediate and extended relatives and friends, plus educators, healthcare professionals, university students, and community supporters (volunteers, sponsors, and donors).
DSACT organizes an array of opportunities for members, including recreational programs, social programs (like age-specific meetups and entertainment), speech therapy for individuals with Down syndrome and their families; education events, seminars, and monthly lunch & learns; and medical outreach for healthcare professionals – and all are at no or very low cost.
DSACT is a 5,000-member/4-staff strong organization!
How can the Austin community best support DSACT?
We’re a small non-profit doing big things, and we always welcome support from donations and sponsors, whether via cash or item donations for events like the DSACT Buddy Walk in October, or the DSACT Cocktail Party in April. Membership in DSACT is free, and donations are essential to fund our year-round programs and services, which are offered at no or low-cost to our members. Interested in sponsorship or getting involved? Please contact Cameron LaHaise, our executive director. We also accept donations via the DSACT website.
How can people help your organization this holiday season and beyond?
Is your company interested in or already supporting individuals with special needs in the workplace? We would love to have a discussion with you about work-shadow and sponsorship opportunities for our Ambassadors – a leadership group of teens and young adults with Down syndrome. We also welcome community volunteers at our recreational programs and events. We also enjoy sharing our story with those interested in sponsoring and donating resources to help improve and expand our programs and services, and make the community a more inclusive space.
What is your organization looking forward to most in the new year?
DSACT is one of the participating charities in the Austin Marathon’s Austin Gives Miles Program. We encourage people to sign up, run, and fundraise for DSACT! We’re also looking forward to growing the choices of recreational and social programming offered to our members, and rolling out a revamped Ambassadors program, with the goal of more inclusive community opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.
What are your organization’s goals for 2018 (helping more, expanding programs, more community action, etc.)?
We’ll be expanding our recreational program choices in 2018, rolling out a more rigorous Ambassador program with more opportunities and benefits to participants (such as work-shadowing, educational seminars, social planning, and community service), and partnering with other local nonprofits to collaborate on supportive and educational benefits for all DSACT members.