After raising three healthy children, I couldn't wait to have grandchildren and be called "Grandma" or "Nana." I now have been blessed with seven grandchildren, and as each grandchild has came into my life I have realized how special they really are. You look at each grandchild and see the different characteristics they have inherited from their mom and their dad, and they each have their own little personalities, likes, dislikes, temperaments, etc., making them who they are.

Four years ago when our fifth grandchild was born, I had the privilege of being in the delivery room for the birth. As all births, it was beautiful! But this time, it also was different. Our new granddaughter was born with Down Syndrome, and a rare heart condition.

I knew nothing about Down Syndrome (or the medical term Trisomy 21), and had never been around anyone with Down Syndrome before, but this new granddaughter was beautiful and needed our love and support to live. So I began to learn about Down Syndrome and what I could do to help my granddaughter and her parents.

Then I realized there are a lot of people who know very little about Down Syndrome, which is what prompted this letter.

Children born with Down Syndrome have an extra or partial copy of the chromosome 21, and Down Syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. There are more than 400,000 people living with Down Syndrome in the United States, and 80 percent are born to mothers under the age of 35.

People with Down Syndrome have an increased risk of medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, and there are other medical conditions such as childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions. Most of these conditions are treatable now, and quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down Syndrome to develop to their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

There is a new organization in Garden City for people with Down Syndrome called "Down Syndrome Society of Southwest Kansas," and they are gearing up for the first local "BUDDY WALK" in Garden City to be held on Aug. 29 with pre-registration by Aug. 15. This walk is to support anyone with Down Syndrome, and to help raise the public's awareness about Down Syndrome.

I hope the community of Garden City, and southwest Kansas, will support this "BUDDY WALK" wholeheartedly. If you would like to get involved, have questions about the upcoming walk or would like to know more about Down Syndrome, please call me at 277-2270.

GINGER BAIER,

Garden City