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Parent Love Connection Downright Awesome

October is the month of international Down syndrome awareness. It is estimated 1 in every 691 babies in the United States are born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome affects people of all races and economic levels. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. 

 The Santa Cruz Parent Love Connection celebrated during the month of October with a walk to spread awareness on Down syndrome awareness. On Sunday, October 27th, the Down syndrome community in Santa Cruz County gathered to celebrate people with Down syndrome to promote awareness and inclusion.  The Santa Cruz Parents Love Connection committee held its “Third Annual Walk for Down Syndrome” at Teyechea Park in Nogales Arizona from 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. The event was funded by Parent Love Connection and Southern Arizona Network for Down syndrome SANDS.

During the month of October, the Parent Love Connection celebrates people with Down syndrome by making people aware of their capabilities and their accomplishments. “Our celebration is focused on recognizing our Down syndrome population in Santa Cruz County, it’s about empowering families,” said Maria Scholnick, Program Director.

“Our goal is to empower families across Santa Cruz County to advocate for their family members with Down syndrome. Today, many individuals with Down syndrome are active participants in our society. They are active community members engaged in the educational, vocational, social and recreational aspects of our community. Every year teens with Down syndrome are graduating from high school, they are going to college, finding meaningful employment and living independently,” said Maria Scholnick.  

The walk took place at the city hall. The procession started in the park behind city hall, then went around the front of the city hall on Grand Avenue before ending in the park again. “We would like to thank our special guests who participated in the event, the Mayor of Nogales Arturo Garino and his wife Kathy Garino, David Verdugo Superintendent from SCVUSD #35, Sheriff Tony Estrada, Judith Mendoza Director of Student Services from NUSD, and Tom Mcalpin from CCRT. The Mariposa Community Health Center, Southern Arizona Girls Scouts, Dependable Health Services, the Nogales Public Library, DDD and Milestone Pediatric Therapy are among the organizations that participated in our event. Dr. Melisa Lunderville Assistant Superintendent from SVUSD #35 was the Grand Marshal of the event. The Parent Love Connection gave out awards to community members who have made a difference for our children with special needs,” said Scholnick.

Our Grand Marshal Dr. Melisa Lunderville Assistant Superintendent for SVUSD #35 was selected this year by the committee for her dedication, advocacy, and experience working with children with disabilities. Upon her arrival, she was greeted by Jimena Garcia with a beautiful bouquet of white roses as a token of appreciation for accepting her title as Grand Marshal.

The event included a variety of entertainment with performances from Mariachi Plata, the Mousey Zumba Crew, and a musical group from the Southern  Arizona Girls Scouts. Francine Scholnick a cheerleader from Rio Rico High School did a cheer for the audience. Parents and supporters of families with Down syndrome showed their support by displaying their yellow t-shirts with the theme ” Downright awesome.”  Committee members decorated the park in a beautiful bright yellow and blue color using ribbons, flowers and dozens of balloons. 

The SCPLC  is a support and advocacy organization founded in 2010 for families raising children with special needs living in Santa Cruz County. For more information or to become a volunteer please call 520-470-5833 or email Maria Scholnick at Please like the SCPLC on Facebook, or leave them a message. 

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