In February, we attended the Rhinestones and Rodeo Fundraiser for Down Country. That was my first introduction to Down Country, and I knew before I left the event that they would be a recipient of our GIVE BACK donation. I had the opportunity to visit with Kate Dougherty, the President and founder of Down Country, and I want to share a little of what I learned about their work in our community.
Down Country was founded in 2011 in Taylor, Missouri and is a 100% Volunteer organization. Since there are no staffing costs, they are able to use all the funds they raise to fulfill their mission in the Tri-State area.
Down County was founded with three philosophical ideals:
Every child is a gift.
Every child can learn.
Every child learns differently.
From their literature: “Down Country utilizes Down syndrome to provide an overview of disability awareness. It is NOT an organization for only those affected by Down syndrome, but for the ENTIRE Tri-State community that learns outside of the box. Down Country operates as an umbrella educational and positive awareness information share uniting the differently abled/exceptionally gifted community among the three states (MO, IL, IA) comprising the Tri-State area.”
While I had a glimpse of what they do at the Rhinestones and Rodeo Fundraiser, I wanted to learn more after seeing all the scholarship recipients go forward at the event and learning that over 310 iPads had been donated to teachers, schools and therapists through the iCare/iPad program.
As Kate and I discussed the prospect of putting iPads in the hands of teachers as a useful learning tool, she also focused on the fact that they provide iPad training and workshops as a part of the donation. This is vital because without training, the technology would not be able to be effectively used to help the children it’s intended to help. It was eye opening to find out about the technology that now exists to help with learning and development.
The I Learn Scholarship Program is a program through Down Country where they provide scholarship opportunities for families and professionals to attend national and international conferences. They have sent people to over 17 different conferences including: Tourette Syndrome Association, American Academy of Cerebral Palsy & Developmental Medicine, Autism Intervention Conference, National Association of State Special Educators, National Down Syndrome Congress Convention, International Reading Association, CHADD Annual International Conference on ADHD, Closing the Gap Conference on Technology, and many more.
What was most striking to me about the scholarship opportunities that Down Country provides is the multiplying impact it has had. The scholarships are $2000 per year for 5 years and the recipients are required to come home and pay it forward by sharing the knowledge they gained their conference with others – this is done with consultation from the Down Country board and has included presentations to churches, schools, business clubs, family mentoring, awareness campaigns, and many other ways. So, each year another 10 people are added to the group that are benefiting and if they take a friend/spouse or their family with them you can really see how these $2000 a year grants are making a big impact for families in this area.
Finally, Down County has brought over 15 different national speakers to the Tri-State community and schools. By doing this, they are making resources available locally to teachers, families and others who may not have the opportunity or ability to travel to a convention.
I am fortunate to have been invited to the Rhinestones and Rodeo Fundraiser because it clued me into the needs of Down Country, and it showed me how much they are doing right here for our community.
Please mark your calendars for next year’s Rhinestones and Rodeo Fundraiser:
February 13, 2016
You can learn more and make a donation to Down Country by visiting their website: