The Aquis Titans are big supporters of Down Syndrome Association Queensland, with Luke Douglas their ambassador who assists the association with genuine passion and care.
He recently attended the DSAQ’s debutant ball, with his wife Adele, and it was one of the most touching items we have posted on our website and social media.
That night touched many, who were there and … over12 million people who watched a video story on the night broadcast by ABC TV!
Nigel Ward, 59, of Elanora, hasn’t had a dull life. For ten years he travelled the world, working for Formula 1, going to all the most glamourous places and staying in five-star hotels. Now he’s settled on the Gold Coast, married to Cally and raising his beautiful daughter Sarah, aged seven.
As all daughters are to their fathers, Sarah is the light of Nigel’s life. But Sarah is “special” in that she has special needs, through her diagnosis of Down syndrome.
“Having a child with Down syndrome is really no different to having any child,” says Nigel. As a parent you’re finding your way every day, making it up as you go along and looking to others to see how they do it.
This final point has really been brought home to Nigel and Cally recently, through their experience with an amazing organisation Gold Coast Recreation and Sport. Rec & Sport, as it is known, organised the debutante ball for young people with disabilities.
The response has been beyond any expectations.
“The debutante ball internet news story is reportedly the second most successful story ABC News have ever run”, says Nigel. “We are all blown away by its success. It’s had over 12 million views.
“I’m personally really heartened to see the public still want to see a genuine love story, when there are no celebrities, bikies, booze or drugs involved. It does your heart good to know that people still care, particularly about people who just happen to have disabilities.”
The story features Michael and Taylor, who became heroes to the Ward family, through their involvement in the ball. “Over the course of ten weeks, the 17 debutante couples were trained in what to do on the night, how to dance.
“Parents were excluded, so that on the night of the ball, the parents got a real wow factor, and saw their child appear polished, confident and dressed up to the nines. But for Cally and I it was different. Sarah was the flower girl and as she is only seven, we attended the practices with her, and got an insight into just how much effort and commitment the debutantes made, training for their big night”.
“What was really important to us was getting to know those young adults with disability, seeing they all had different strengths and weaknesses, and abilities, not disabilities. We know families with Down syndrome with kids up to about 12 or 13, but we didn’t know any adults. Meeting those young adults – well that was really powerful.
“Some of them have jobs and all of them have active social lives filled with sport, which gives them a focus and opportunity to succeed. For example, Michael and Taylor are off to Italy soon to represent Australia at the World Down syndrome Swimming Championships. We have been left with a sense of so much possibility for Sarah, and renewed confidence to continue to support her to be the best she can be.”
The Aquis Gold Coast Titans also came to the part, to support the Ward family on the night, through Luke Douglas who works closely with Sarah.
“Luke is amazing, Nigel said. “He does so much work in the community, as does the whole Titans organisation, and they get very little recognition for it. Luke and his wife Adele and two other friends from the Titans came to the ball to support Sarah.
“The Titans’ media team made an amazing video too, which would absolutely melt the heart of anyone who watches it. We are so grateful to Luke and the Titans for their continued support of Sarah and Down syndrome awareness raising.”
The Titans’ round 16 home game against Canberra Raiders (June 26) will be the next opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate the possibilities for people with Down syndrome. Twenty-six children with Down syndrome will run onto the field with the players from both teams as the start of the match, providing wide exposure for DASQ.
“This will be third year the Titans have created this brilliant opportunity to raise awareness of Down syndrome. Over 200 people from the Down syndrome community will attend the game to cheer on their loved ones, and the atmosphere is always amazing. We take so much from the support of the crowd at the game, who are always fabulous to our kids.”
To find out more, check out the Down Syndrome Association of Queensland’s website. www.dsaq.org.au
To support Taylor and Michael as they go for gold in Italy at the Down syndrome World Swimming Championships, visit www.dssa.org.au
To join the 12 million people and watch the ABC television report, click here: https://www.facebook.com/ABCGoldCoast/
And their follow up video: https://www.facebook.com/ABCGoldCoast/