Down Syndrome Support Group Established in Kalispell

Flathead Valley Buddy Walk to be held at Kalispell’s Lawrence Park on Oct. 7

By Justin Franz
Kate Jones and her daughter Magnolia at their home in Kalispell on Sept. 21, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Last year, when Kate and Cory Jones returned home from China with their newly adopted 4-year-old daughter, they didn’t know any other local parents of children with Down syndrome.

Looking to make connections for themselves and their daughter, Magnolia, the family decided to attend the Flathead Valley Buddy Walk last October, an event held across the country to raise awareness about the genetic disorder that impacts about 6,000 children born in the United States every year. The Jones family made some connections and so much more.

This week, the Jones family is getting ready to attend the second annual Buddy Walk — scheduled for Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. in Kalispell’s Lawrence Park — organized by the newly formed Kalispell chapter of the Montana Down Syndrome Association. The event will feature a walk, music, food trucks and activities.

“We wanted to meet other people who were in the same situation as we were in,” Kate Jones said of attending last year’s Buddy Walk. “It helped us find our own community.”

The Kalispell couple already had three kids of their own when in 2015 they started the process of adopting a little girl from China. KyLynn, now 4, was born with a rare blood disorder that requires her to receive occasional blood transfusions. The process of adopting KyLynn took nearly a year but they finally were able to bring her home in July 2016. The Jones family was settling into their new life with KyLynn when fate threw them a curveball, Kate said. A few weeks after returning from China, the Jones family received an email from their adoption agency about another little girl with Down syndrome. Kate said she fell in love almost immediately after seeing the photo.

“I told Cory that I think we need to go back,” Kate recalled.

Cory was hesitant at first, but after prayer and some convincing from Kate, agreed to adopt again. They began the adoption process in October 2016 and by August 2017 they brought Magnolia home.

Down syndrome occurs when a child is born with an extra chromosome. A child with the genetic disorder often has muscle development issues and can struggle developmentally. Because of those development issues, Magnolia has trouble forming words so Kate has taught her American Sign Language; an especially impressive feat considering that prior to last year Magnolia had only heard Mandarin Chinese.

Magnolia sees a number of therapists and, particularly with the help of a speech language pathologist, Kate is hopeful that someday her daughter will be able to effectively speak. Besides Magnolia’s therapists, Kate has also received support from other parents, thanks in part to the Kalispell chapter of the Montana Down Syndrome Association. The association is based in Missoula and its goal is to raise awareness through events like the Buddy Walk and offer aid and services to families. The association has a lending library where local families can borrow material and medical devices. It also holds workshops, and in some cases offers financial assistance for therapeutic services and medical expenses.

Sarah Reynolds is vice president of the Kalispell chapter that was formally established earlier this year and has played a critical role in planning the Buddy Walk. While the Oct. 7 event is one of the group’s most prominent, the local chapter has hosted other fundraisers in the past and hopes to expand its calendar in the future. Reynolds said they are particularly interested in establishing support groups for parents of children with Down syndrome. Reynolds said getting those efforts off the ground shouldn’t be hard with such a dedicated group of families in the Kalispell area. Kate Jones agrees that there is a strong network being established in the valley.

“Having a child with Down syndrome is such a special thing and I think everyone in our community feels that way,” she said.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/MontanaDSAKalispell.

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