In this season of giving, Bob and Jill Benoit were asked to share the story of their recent gift to the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound. The DSC is grateful for their generous gift and the story surrounding it and hope it will inspire everyone this holiday season.
What is your family’s story?
We have been married 16 years and have 3 boys: Reed (10), Joey (7), and Noah (5). Like any family, raising kids is a crazy adventure, and each child has their own challenges. In January of 2013, our youngest son, Noah, was born with Down syndrome. Since Jill had worked as an elementary school teacher in the Northshore school district, she was familiar with Down syndrome and the local special needs community. Having our own child with Down syndrome was a new thing to absorb, though, and we were initially struck with grief as well as joy. Our first meeting with a doctor was to offer an appointment to end the pregnancy and our first search online for Down syndrome indicated the financial burden on society that should be considered when choosing to have a child with Down syndrome – this wasn’t the information we were looking for, and as we have learned, isn’t the full picture.
Fortunately, we were put in contact with local families who had been through this already, and we learned from them. We were also put in contact with the Down Syndrome Community. These connections have given us real life experience and feedback at each stage of our journey with Noah. From our first stay at Children’s Hospital to our home group and involvement in the move to inclusion in our local schools, the experience and insight we gain from the wisdom of others has been such a great benefit to our family and to Noah. Our hope is that in the future, when families receive the diagnosis of Down syndrome, it will quickly be followed by hopeful and accurate information – and that the community surrounding them will be inclusive and embrace all of the beautiful qualities in addition to challenges the child will bring to their lives.
Today Noah is super active, and with his brothers, loves to run, wrestle, and play legos and Mickey Mouse! He is included in a general education private kindergarten, and we plan to enroll him in public school next year. The future for Noah and our family looks bright and is full of hope.
Will you share the story surrounding your gift to the Down Syndrome Community?
We (Jill and Bob) have always been connected by the outdoors, community, and the idea that life and love are a gift given to all people equally – of course, that gift is not experienced equally for all people. We have a shared motivation to put this ideal into action by being involved in things that will make it more of a reality in any way we can, even small ways. This has led to many opportunities, one of which is working at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation is guided by the belief that all lives have equal value, and we work to reduce inequity so that every person has the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. We see this belief shared in the Down Syndrome Community, with a specific focus on people with Down syndrome. One of the great employee benefits at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the opportunity to give a grant to a nonprofit organization of your choice at major work anniversaries. This past summer, in celebration of Bob’s 10-year anniversary, we decide to give the $10,000 grant money to the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound.
The Down Syndrome Community is grateful for families like the Benoits and individuals like Noah who inspire everyone to do great things and give to the world around us! The DSC is also grateful for organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that help us succeed in doing just that. May this season give everyone many more opportunities to reach out and give hope!
See more information about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation HERE.