About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year, making it the most common chromosomal disorder. However, as prevalent as it is, there remains rampant misunderstanding of Down syndrome as well as a lack of institutional support for individuals with the diagnosis.
Caitlin Raupp, marketing director at Only Alpha Pool Products, understands this acutely. In 2016, Raupp gave birth to Holden, a bright, healthy baby boy with Down syndrome.
“When he was born, we wondered: What does this mean for Holden’s future?” she says. “What does this mean for our family and our future? Will our community and friends welcome and include him?”
Today, Holden is 3 years old and thriving: He loves swimming and being a big brother to sister Hazel (and is thrilled about the new sister on the way). And as of this writing, he recently began preschool. While his diagnosis came as a surprise to the Raupp family, Caitlin describes life with Holden as “the most beautiful surprise.”
“I never could have imagined how amazing life would be having a child with Down syndrome,” Raupp says.
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That spirit is what motivated Raupp and her father, OAPP President and CEO Tom Epple, to launch the Only Alpha Pool Products Down Syndrome Advocacy Program, which supports local and national organizations dedicated to raising awareness and enhancing the quality of life of those with Down syndrome.
“People didn’t see the value in educating people with Down syndrome. ‘They can’t learn,’ ‘They can’t do this’ and ‘They can’t do that,’” Raupp says. “But even over the past 10 years, there’s so much new information that has been brought to the public about what our kids are capable of, so we wanted to help shout their worth with this program.”
A portion of each qualifying order from OAPP will be donated to one of three organizations: the National Down Syndrome Society, Down Syndrome Association of NW Michigan or the Down Syndrome Association of NE Indiana. The homeowner or dealer can select which organization will receive the donation and have their name attached to the donation, if they like.
In addition to fundraising, the Down Syndrome Advocacy Program has encouraged industry pros all over the country to reach out, share stories about those with Down syndrome they know and even ask about starting a similar program of their own.
“It’s overwhelming, we’ve had so many people come up to us saying, ‘I’ve hired someone with Down syndrome and they’ve changed the whole environment of our office!’ or ‘My sister has Down syndrome,’” Raupp says. “It really comes to light how many people are touched by Down syndrome when you actually just start talking about the disability.”