PARIS, Tex. -- On Saturday, close to forty people gathered in the cafeteria of Aikin Elementary School in Paris to bring awareness to Down Syndrome. The birth defect affects around 350,000 Americans. .
Craig Blackburn got a standing ovation Saturday. It was one of many ovations he receives while touring around the country on his motivational speaking tour. Even with his busy schedule of speaking engagements, he found time to serve on the advisory team for a U.S. Department of Education grant. If all that wasn't enough on his plate, he recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Heather.
But Blackburn faces a challenge many will never experience, he has down syndrome.
“Basically my message is my perspective way to encourage them to go ahead and have them succeed.”
Deanna Tharpe runs the Red River Down Syndrome Society. Tharpe has two sons, one of which has down syndrome. She has the same hopes, dreams, and standards for both children. She says, just because her younger child has one extra chromosome, he shouldn't be denied a future.
“For my 6-year-old, that whether his dream is to live on his own, whether it's to go to college, whether it's to become a teacher, whatever it is, I want him to have the same opportunity that my 10 year old does.”
Tharpe hopes that everyone affected by Down Syndrome, from children to parents and teachers, throw out preconceived notions and realize the sky is the limit.
“Not every child with Down Syndrome needs to be in a special education classroom, that they're all going to age out at 21 and go live in a group home. Because that's not exactly what happens. It's just like every other child, they can do whatever they want.”