During the hot summer months, most people enjoy nothing more than a day-trip to a nearby beach. Yet for families of children with Down syndrome, such a trip can come with difficulties. Nonprofit 21 Down and the Wildwood Beach Patrol are trying to change that.
For the past eleven years, these two organizations have partnered together to offer local families in the Cape May area the opportunity to enjoy a carefree day at the beach. On a designated day in July, extra life guards and volunteer staff are provided at Wildwood Beach so that parents can relax while their children play. From giving paddleboard lessons to organizing relay races on the sand, volunteers ensure that this day at the beach is one that kids – and parents – will never forget!
Parents and kids alike appreciate the opportunity to spend time with others like them. When The Press of Atlantic City asked one mother about her experience at the 21 Down Beach Day, she responded with enthusiasm:
“I was excited about it because they love the beach,” said Depew, who brought her daughters to the event for the first time. “It’s just nice to be around the community of people with Down syndrome because it’s a more comforting feeling. They know what it’s like.”
The volunteers seem to enjoy the day’s activities almost as much as the children. The Press of Atlantic City reports:
Senior career lifeguard Billy Auty, one of the event organizers, said when it started 11 years ago, only about a handful of families participated. More than 250 visitors were expected to attend this year’s event.
Watching the lifeguards and beachgoers as their faces light up makes this “the best day of the summer for sure,” Auty said.
“It bridges boundaries maybe where some guards would not feel comfortable approaching a child or an adult with Down syndrome,” he said. “Just having the ocean as a common bond lets everyone have their guard down.”
Thanks to 21 Down and the Wildwood Beach Patrol, parents of children with Down syndrome know that when they participate in 21 Down Day, they can spend time in community with others who understand exactly what they are going through. As one parent put it:
“You come here and everyone has that one thing in common: We all have a kid with Down syndrome,” she said. “We just share that and enjoy the day.”