Two West Hartford businesses will be donating a portion of sales to the the Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut (DS ACT).
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford’s schools have been joyfully “rocking their socks” for World Down Syndrome Day for the past six years, and now several local businesses are sharing in the efforts to raise awareness and donating to the Down Syndrome Association of Connecticut (DS ACT) at the same time.
Resident Brooke Daly, whose son Finn, now 8, has Down syndrome as well as autism, organized the first West Hartford Public Schools “crazy socks day” as a way to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, which is held every March 21.
The date is significant because 3/21 signifies the unique triplication of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome. World Down Syndrome Day has been recognized by the United Nations since 2012, with activities taking place around the world to dispel stereotypes about people with Down syndrome through positive stories and messages, and by advocating for acceptance and inclusion.
Because March 21 is a Sunday this year, West Hartford and other area schools will hold their Rock Your Socks Day on Friday, March 19.
The socks are more than just fun – but rather are also symbolic of the genetic testing that is done with a child with Down syndrome that shows the child’s chromosomes. The chromosomes look very much like socks.
This year, two West Hartford businesses are expanding on the sock theme and are inviting the public to join them in supporting families who live with Down syndrome in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day.
SockStarz, located at 18 LaSalle Rd. in West Hartford Center, will be donating 10% of sales through the end of the month to the Down syndrome Association for all customers who mention the code “DSACT” when they make a purchase in the store, or enter it when ordering online through the SockStarz website. Those customers will also receive a 10% discount.
Patricia Kinney, general manager of SockStarz, said many online purchases have already been made in support of the effort.
SockStarz offers an extensive variety of novelty socks, for people of all ages, that would be perfect to wear for Rock Your Socks Day. The donation effort will run through the entire month of March.
The business is also closely tied to the Down Syndrome Association. “They serve a population similar to our parent,” Kinney said. “They’re a great advocacy organization.”
HARC developed the SockStarz business several years ago as a mission to create employment opportunities for adults with special needs.
Owners and employees of other West Hartford Center businesses are also getting into the spirit of Rock Your Socks Day, Kinney said, and many are buying colorful socks at SockStarz and holding a countdown to March 21.
Linked Media, which handles marketing for the West Hartford Center Business Association, is inviting those who are “rocking their socks” for World Down Syndrome Day to submit a photo (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be featured on the West Hartford Center Facebook page.
Another West Hartford-based business, Homegrown Studio – a process art, sensory exploration studio for children – has created a special Rock Your Socks sock puppet kit. The kit includes a colorful sock, instructions, and all the supplies and accessories needed to create a one-of-a-kind sock puppet.
Homegrown Studio will donate 50% of sale of the Rock Your Socks puppet to DS ACT. The puppets can be purchased online, or in person from the studio which is located at 1026 Boulevard in West Hartford.
“It’s so exciting to see businesses in my hometown stepping up to support a cause that is so dear to my heart,” said Daly, who serves on the DS ACT board of directors and has spearheaded several fundraisers for DS ACT.
DS ACT, a private, 501(c)3 organization committed to increasing opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome, typically holds public events throughout the state on World Down Syndrome Day to support parent volunteers in classrooms and donates books about Down syndrome to schools and public libraries.
DS ACT Executive Director Shanon McCormick said the book donations have continued, but due to the pandemic classroom visits were held via Zoom this year.
McCormick also expressed her appreciation for the fundraising efforts by the West Hartford businesses.
“It is wonderful to have the support of local businesses like Home Grown Studio and SockStarz,” she said. “It says so much about the spirit of the town of West Hartford that businesses in the community come forward like this, even under the economic hardship of the pandemic. We would not be able to continue our work without their generosity.”
According to McCormick, DS ACT offers programs that include support of new and expectant parents and siblings of children with Down syndrome; mentoring in education advocacy for parents; a support group for teens and young adults with Down syndrome, and one for their parents; literacy assessment and tutoring for individuals with a Down syndrome learning profile; summer camp grants for children and adults with Down syndrome; and an annual conference in best practices for families and professionals.
McCormick also shared the following information:
Down syndrome occurs in approximately 1 of every 700 births. In Connecticut 40 to 50 children are born with Down syndrome each year, most to women under 35 years of age. The most common physical traits include low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm.
All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each person possesses. With planning and support, people who have Down syndrome are able to live and work in the community. Many people feel it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome through genetic therapies.
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