DSL Board Secretary
I have a 30-year-old son with Down syndrome and have been involved with this group before it was established as Down Syndrome of Louisville. Back then all we had was Jean Bryson and the Early Intervention Program which served individuals with Ds from birth to 5 years of age. Jefferson County provided her with a classroom, and she was responsible for raising her own salary and benefits. I remember our first conversation like it was yesterday. Drew was 3 weeks old and Jean called to introduce herself and tell me about the program. Back then there were no HIPPA guidelines and when a baby with Down syndrome was born, the hospital staff called Jean. When I asked her how many children with Ds are born a year, she said around 8. It was then that I went through the “Why me?” phase. Of all the fat bellies walking around, I had 1 of the 8! Jean became my teacher, counselor, advisor, and pretty much my angel in disguise. My family jumped right in and helped with Bingo’s and any other fundraising activities needed to raise Jean’s salary.
I graduated from UofL and worked for AT&T in customer service for 17 years and volunteered for a buyout since I had two young children. I did not work for a total of 11 months and then began consulting for AT&T and training sales reps off and on for about 3 years. Not sure of the exact year, but around 1996 or so DSL hired their first Executive Director who was part-time. She moved out of state, and I was offered the job. I had a lot of people who jumped in and helped. My mom knew some realtors who had office space they donated for years, adding more space as it was needed until we purchased our 1st building. I was only the ED a few years because AT&T called and offered me a great position I could not turn down. It was a harder decision to go back to work there than it was to leave, because I loved being ED but I needed to make sure my son would be taken care of for life. I wish I could make sure all Ds individuals are taken care of and no parent would have to worry about their child.
During my time as ED, we changed the Buddy Walk from an awareness walk to an actual fundraiser, (nothing like it is today), started Halloween at the Zoo, and got the Teen Group off the ground. If you were a member of my family, you had no choice whether or not you volunteered, and they were always there to help out. When my dad passed away 20 years ago, DSL named the Volunteer of the Year Award after my dad, Joseph O. Thomas. He was always only a call away. As we all know, it takes a village. We then hired Dianna who took it to the next level and now Julie who is taking us to the moon! We are so blessed as an organization!
I am in my second term on the board and my husband serves on the Foundation board. He started the golf tournament and the gala which are both great fundraisers. As you can see, as a family we are very invested in this organization and know-how blessed we are to live here and have the support we need for our child.
I retired from AT&T this past August after 37 years to watch my 1st grandchild who was born in July. We plan to do some traveling in retirement and take some time to just chill!