March 08, 2015

Help Me Support Down Syndrome Tasmania.

I grew up with a close cousin 4 years older than myself, his name was Michael and he was born with Down Syndrome. In our family he was never "disabled", instead he was "special". OK, so "special" was merely a poorly disguised cover word for "disabled", I know that now, but now I also know Michael truly was special.


Michael was gifted with a photographic memory. He stored away every moment he experienced and constantly reminded us of family events, who was present and what was said long after everyone had forgotten. He used this amazing memory to effortlessly remember names of players and statistics for his favourite sports of Australian Rules Football, cricket, tennis and golf. His favourite food alternated between a solid roast meal and a simple Vegemite sandwich. When sick, as he often was as a child, Vegemite sandwiches were the only thing that kept him alive.

Growing up with Michael helped shaped me into who I am today, he taught me compassion in a way nobody else could and for that I'm grateful. At an age when children point, stare and make rude comments about anyone "different" I had already learned to accept people based on more than their appearance or abilities and defended him fiercely. Often I'd cry "He's not dumb/stupid/fat/weird, he's special!" before getting into a vigorous childhood scrap.

As an adult Michael was entitled to a Disabled Pension, yet he spent his days painting surveyors pegs and sorting bottles at a local recycling facility. His payment was the pension he was entitled to all along. I've always been proud that he worked rather than simply accepted a handout.

As we grew up my life moved on, while his routine barely changed, and we saw less of each other. At the time he passed away I had been living overseas for over a decade with a family of my own and had not spoken to him for years. It pains me that I did not do more for him, a simple phone call, a present from Japan in the mail, anything.

He was special. He shaped me. I owe him.

In 2010 I ran the Tokyo Marathon successfully raising over $650 for Down Syndrome Tasmania who surprisingly asked if there way a particular way I'd like the money to be used. Being a parent of two children myself nothing brings me more pleasure than seeing them having a good time. A trip to the ice rink, an afternoon of horse riding, the chance to jump on a trampoline, small things to us, but to a child they're happy memories that will be treasured forever.

Some choose to support research, I choose to support fun times.

Frivolous? Maybe. Worthless, most certainly not.  



March 21st, 2015, is World Down Syndrome Day and I'd like to ask that if you're a regular reader who appreciates the time and effort I put in to Tokyo By Bike, or you've occasionally stumbled upon the odd article that struck a chord, then please support me by supporting my favourite charity, Down Syndrome Tasmania. Nothing will encourage me to serve you better than seeing the donations rack up and imagining the smiles those donations will bring to kids who deserve a good time.

This donations page will be active for 2 months, and I think $1,000 is a modest goal, so please give as little or as much as you can afford. Its all appreciated.

I will tweet my heartfelt thanks for all non anonymous donations.

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