LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. (KOIN) — Like many high schoolers, Eli and Megan were excited about their prom. The Lake Oswego High School students have known each other for years and Megan said she felt pretty in her dress.
Eli said that he was “very happy” when he asked her and she said yes.
It made their parents very happy, too.
A friendship begins
Renee Kerr and Paula Schiedler met through mutual friends when their kids were babies. They hit it off and over time, they began a non-profit organization, Down Syndrome Network Oregon, which has blossomed into a support network for other parents whose children have Down Syndrome.
When Eli and Megan — each 18 — were little children, there weren’t many places for parents to find support. Kerr said it’s “awesome” that “there are a thousand blogs out there now.”
But it wasn’t always like that.
“Anyone will tell you, my family or friends, how when (Megan) was born I just sobbed. And that’s all I could think about was the prom,” Schiedler said, afraid her daughter would never go.
Kerr understood what she felt.
“Even just such a short time ago, 18 years ago, it just didn’t feel as inclusive,” she told KOIN 6 News. “When you hear those words — ‘Your baby had Down Syndrome’ or anything that’s a special needs diagnosis — you’re sort of like (gasp).”
But Schiedler says now they wouldn’t change a thing.
“Most people feel the same way. It is what it is and for us it’s fabulous,” she said. “These kids do everything that typical kids do — sports, dances, Megan got her black belt.” Megan also has a job at a local restaurant.
“These are things we wanted for our typical children and this is what they’re doing,” Schiedler said.
They’re looking at colleges, jobs, marriage — “I don’t know about to each other, but I think someday she can get married if she wants.”
For the mothers, the other really big thing is that their kids, “growing up in Lake Oswego High or any high school nowadays” are “walking tandem with their peers.”
“Eli has every intention of living by himself,” she said. Seeing her son and Megan go to the Lake Oswego prom was “just a real heart-warming moment” of “unspoken gratefulness” that their children are healthy and capable and getting stronger.
Paula Schielder and Renee Kerr have a close friendship and play off each other’s words. Schiedler said Kerr is “kind of Lucy, I’m sort of more Ethel — Ethel is a little more level-headed,” prompting Kerr to retort, “Oh, is that right?”
When it comes to their non-profit, they’re serious. They said they’re on call around-the-clock for any hospital in the area when a baby is born or a diagnosis is received by a mother. They bring a basket of hope with resources.
“Sometimes we just sit and cry (with another family) but we understand the sadness,” Schiedler said. “But we’re not sad. I haven’t been sad about Down Syndrome in years. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
“I would say to all our moms, new moms, expectant moms that you should expect the best, not just hope for the best, but expect the best and pursue the best.”