Somerset family marks World Down Syndrome Day

Wendy Elliott
Published on March 18, 2016

Two-year-old Hunter Saunders was so excited he popped his fingers in his mouth. He has Mosaic Down Sydrome.

©Wendy Elliott,

SOMERSET - Two-year-old Hunter Saunders bops around happily with his two brothers in their toy-filled Somerset home.

On March 21, his family will celebrate him on World Down Syndrome Day, and they’ll be in Halifax before that for a gathering of the provincial Down syndrome association.

Hunter’s mom, Kari Smith, a board member for the association, says, “so many people are scared. Fear is the biggest thing.”

Not only that, but members of the public will ask such intrusive questions. Smith has even been asked why she continued with her pregnancy knowing there was a slight chance her baby could be affected.

“We decided to take a chance,” Smith says. “We were OK with that.”

When Hunter was born, she and husband, Jeff Saunders, were assured he had no symptoms. But it wasn’t long before Smith observed developmental delays.

Several months later, Hunter was seen by a pediatrician and had genetic testing. He has the rare Mosaic Down Syndrome.

Even though she suspected, Smith says she went into a state of shock that became a process of grieving.

“You think of what is lost,” she said. “The picture in my mind just changed.”

Watching his boys playing in the living room, Saunders pipes up very practically and states, “he’s not a burden. But he is a lot of work.”

Big sister Kelsey recalls being really upset when she first heard of Hunter’s diagnosis. She started doing research online to learn more about Down syndrome. Currently she is studying community disability supports at NSCC Kingstec and the course, she says, “has opened my mind.”

Kelsey has witnessed people who are scared of the unknown her brother represents. When encountering someone with a disability, they tend to talk down to them, or, as her mother notes, make false assumptions about their abilities.

She hopes more awareness will lead to positive change.

Through the provincial association, Smith has met a wonderfully abled young man named Will Brewer. She says he has single handedly organized an event in Halifax for March 21 that will include the mayor. Brewer, she says, is making a difference.

The family met Brewer while attending monthly playgroups in Halifax that are organized by the provincial association.

“He loves Hunter,” notes Smith.

Hunter’s siblings, three-year-old Ellery and one-year-old Cedric, enjoy the outings too. They may all attend the upcoming ceremony in Halifax.

Smith calls March 21 an important day to build awareness about Down syndrome. In fact, her three nieces in Liverpool, Ava, Abigail and Evelyn, will be holding their own special event to mark the occasion. And Kelsey will be putting up posters at Kingstec.

Did you know?

Down Syndrome International invites everyone across the world to wear lots of socks on March 21 to raise awareness on World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). This year marks the 11th anniversary of the annual event.