F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Group Promotes Community For Parents Of Down Syndrome Children

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By Libby Hopkins

Having a baby is amazing and very scary all at the same time, especially when you find out your unborn child has Down Syndrome.

“We moved to Florida in 2013 due to my husband’s job relocation,” said Kathy Boisseau. “I was 10 weeks pregnant with Finnegan when we had our first scheduled ultrasound.” Boisseau found out that Finnegan had an extra nuclear fold and her doctor told her this was a soft indicator her son might have Down Syndrome.

“Hearing the words ‘Down Syndrome’ created a whirlwind of emotions from shocked, to devastation and anger,” Boisseau said.

Boisseau found out about Families Raising, Inspiring, Educating & Networking for Down Syndrome (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) from a friend. The goal of the non-profit is to provide broad reaching educational services for families impacted by Down Syndrome in the Tampa Bay area. They strive to provide financial and social service support for families impacted by Down Syndrome, in addition to providing outreach to the Tampa Bay community in education and community integration for families impacted by Down Syndrome. The organization serves Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco Counties. It was at a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. meeting where Boisseau met the organization’s president, Ann Foyt.

“She took and just gave me the biggest hug and told me everything I am feeling is normal and everything will be fine,” said Boisseau.

The organization encouraged Boisseau to bring her 5-year-old daughter, Ava to group meetings and other events.

“I thought it was important for her to enter the world of Down Syndrome,” Boisseau said. The organization hosts many of its events at Rotary’s Camp Florida in Brandon.

Foyt and Boisseau recently started a Baby F.R.I.E.N.D.S. group and Boisseau’s son, Finnegan is the youngest member in the local community.

“This is an informal playgroup that I host which meets monthly,” Boisseau said. “I provide social activities and learning experiences for children with Down Syndrome, ages 0 to 4. New parents will be able to connect, gain support and learn about community resources in addition to celebrating milestones.”

To learn more about F.R.I.E.N.D.S., visit www.friendssupport.org or call 245-2782. Rotary’s Camp Florida is located at 1915 Camp Florida Rd. in Brandon.