Tesori Family Foundation and Collage Day School hold event to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day


The Tesori Family Foundation held its inaugural 321 Love Your Neighbor event at Collage Day School on Wednesday, March 21 at 3:21 p.m. to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.

Hosted by News4Jax anchor Nikki Kimbleton, 321 Love Your Neighbor festivities included music from local artist Kay Gianna, free food from Pieology, What's the Catch and Kona Ice. Attendees also enjoyed snacks courtesy of Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville. The event was held on March 21 at 3:21 p.m. because Down syndrome is medically defined as someone who has a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

Author and Special Olympics Virginia board member John Franklin Stephens, who has Down syndrome, delivered a speech on living with the disorder. Stephens, who was “thrilled at the turnout” for the event, thanked visitors for attending 321 Love Your Neighbor and shared his life experiences. Stephens’ 2017 testimony to Congress on Down syndrome research and the value of life went viral.

"Do I look like I'm suffering?" he asked. "To moms, dads, and grandparents out there, let me leave you with some piece of advice. Expect competence, not failure; expect joy, not suffering; expect to be amazed and you will never be disappointed."

Prior to Stephens’ speech, 21 speakers each provided 21 different facts about Down syndrome.

Founded in 2009 by Paul and Michelle Tesori, the Tesori Family Foundation is a nonprofit aimed at giving back to those in need in the Northeast Florida community. Following the birth of their son Isaiah, Paul and Michelle expanded the organization to add programs for children with special needs.

"Since Isaiah has been born, one of the things that has surprised me as a person and as a sinner is I'm open to any and all questions,” Michelle said in an interview with the Recorder. “What I've learned is ignorance - not in a negative way - is what prevents people from having accurate information. If we're able to embrace the questions as opposed to getting offended by questions, we can open the door to open lines of communication."

Open dialogue about Down syndrome, Michelle asserted, will bridge the gap and further educate the public about people born with the special chromosomal arrangement associated with Down syndrome.

"What I'm hoping today does is to open the door for folks who may have been resistant or hesitant to ask questions about Down syndrome or to approach and meet someone with Down syndrome," she said. "I'm guessing there are probably 50-plus people here with Down syndrome today... It would be impossible to be here and not have an interaction."

For more information on the Tesori Family Foundation, visi www.tesorifamilyfoundation.org/about.