The mission of Down Syndrome of Louisville first came to be in 1977 when educator, Mary Carter, began to focus on the cognitive and physical development of young children with Down syndrome. Carter began Kentucky’s first Early Intervention program to support children with Down Syndrome and their families that same year.
Soon Jean Bryson began teaching with Mary Carter and upon her passing took over the program. Although called the DS Early Education Program, there was no separate entity or governing body, it was just Jean and a group of parents who wanted something better for their children; many of these families are still active in DSL today.
After a group of parents continued this work, DSL officially became a 501c3 in May of 1995. The group would come together to support each other and go on outings. In 2003, Down Syndrome of Louisville (DSL) expanded programming to include educational, physical, and personal development, health and wellness, and social programming for children and adults of all ages.
Exceptional programming quickly moved DSL us into the forefront of DS organizations nationwide. These programs, combined with our dedication to serving individuals with DS and their families, earned us the 2009 Parent Association of the Year by the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Kentucky Out-of-School Leadership Award in 2010.
In September 2011, DSL opened its new campus, the Lifelong Learning Center located at 5001 S. Hurstbourne Parkway. The Center is the first facility in the world to offer comprehensive educational and developmental programming for individuals with DS across their entire lifespan. Members and families drew pictures and left messages of hope on the interior walls as the building went up.
Also in 2011, DSL merged with Down Syndrome Support Associates of Southern Indiana. DSL’s second Lifelong Learning Center is located in New Albany, Indiana.
In 2016, DSL earned a prestigious Gold Certificate of Accreditation from Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action, which requires rigorous organizational and programmatic standards. DSL is still the only Down Syndrome Association in the country to receive this accreditation.
In 2018, Diana Merzweiler decided to retire after 17 years as Executive Director. Diana was an integral part of the excellence and dramatic growth of Down Syndrome of Louisville. Our current Executive Director, Julie Torzewski, was hired in early 2019.
Today, Down Syndrome of Louisville remains the largest Down Syndrome Association in the world, offering more than 50 programs, events and services to their over 1,200 families and is staged to continue its growth according to the Strategic Plan.