The Foundation that Thinks Globally (And Acts Locally) on Down Syndrome

We recently told you about the Alana Foundation’s sponsorship of R&D into medical treatments that could help people who have Down syndrome to live longer lives and get relief from medical ailments to which they are uniquely prone, such as dementia and heart disease. Meanwhile, efforts are also underway to ensure that people who have Down syndrome get the best educational support and personal counseling that society can give them. The Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Educational Grants program aims to help make happen.

This foundation started in 2009 with the aim of helping out all types of Down syndrome-related medical care and research. It had its work cut out for it as Down syndrome was—and still is—the least-funded category of medical R&D in the United States. So the Global Down Syndrome Foundation has been trying to fill in the funding gap with recurring grants of millions of dollars each over the last six years to the Anna and John J. Sie Center for Down Syndrome, which provides children who have Down syndrome with treatments, therapies, and counseling; and the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome, which both offers medical treatments and additionally researchers into Down syndrome and Down syndrome-related health disorders.

Medical R&D is certainly important. But medical researchers are certainly not the only people helping children with Down syndrome. There are also the many dedicated people working on the non-physiological side of the equation, too: special-education teachers, counselors who specialize in children with Down syndrome, and (maybe the most important of all) those children’s parents. It’s these people who are involved in a Down’s syndrome-affected child’s everyday life, helping him or her to grow, develop, and enjoy life to the fullest extent that the condition and its limitations will allow.  

And it’s these people that the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Educational Grants program is ultimately meant to help. It gives its funds to nonprofits and school-based programs that work with persons with Down syndrome and the educators and family members who look after them. Six grantees got awards in 2012, the program’s inaugural year.

Among them was the Alabama-based Down Syndrome Society of Mobile County, which got a grant to hold an Icebreakers Etiquette Class to teach teens and adults with Down syndrome how to interact more comfortably in social settings. Another grantee, the Down Syndrome Foundation of SE New Mexico, used its award to host an annual workshop to train teachers on how to teach children with Down syndrome.

The program gave out eight awards in 2013 and nine in 2014. The 2014 winners included the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico, which put the funds toward an education workshop that shared research and teaching techniques with parents, teachers, and administrators; and the Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Organization, a Florida nonprofit that used the funds for its monthly “Get a Life!” program, which helps families to guide youths with Down syndrome toward productive adult lives. A third grantee, the Montana Down Syndrome Association, spent its award on “Resource Connection,” a program that distributes books, lesson materials, and play materials to families of people with Down syndrome.

Judging by the last few years’ numbers, it seems this program keeps its pool of winners small. And as the examples suggest, it looks for grant seekers who work locally. Recipients all have scopes restricted to one specific county, state, or region. And none are repeat winners.

There’s something else that you should know: To qualify, your organization must already be a member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. If it’s not, then you’ll just need to fill out an application for membership first. The foundation provides a link for that here. Once you’ve done that, then go right ahead and fill out the application for a grant. That, you can download here.