It’s quite true what they say “everything’s bigger in Texas”! This is especially true for the southern hospitality I experienced over the last few days in the Rio Grande Valley!
I was very honored to be invited to attend a series of events last weekend in Brownsville, Texas by NDSS DS-AMBASSADOR™ Sergio Zarate, one of our original ambassadors, and his family – a weekend that I’ve had saved on my calendar for over a year, since Sergio invited NDSS to participate.
We kicked off Friday with an inspiring event hosted by Driscoll Heath Plan led, by Lizbeth Shanholtzer, where I talked about NDSS and our advocacy and programming efforts for individuals with Down syndrome. I was so humbled that so many advocates and affiliate leaders from around the state of Texas attended, including: Down by the Border, Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association and Down Syndrome Association of Laredo (who drove over three hours!)
That afternoon, Sergio and Dolores Zarate, Dr. Manuel and Olga Mendoza and the families of Down by the Border and leaders of the Order of Alhambra, Brownsville rolled out the red, I mean, “yellow”, carpet for me!
State Senator Eddie Lucio and Representative Eddie Lucio III, two dedicated champions for people with disabilities in the state of Texas, honored me with the Texas Yellow Rose and a flag flown from the Texas State Capital in my honor. Wow, this was some incredible southern hospitality! It was such a treat to meet Dr. Esperanza Zendejas, the Superintendent of Brownsville Independent School District, who serves over 500 students with disabilities across the Rio Grande Valley.
On Saturday morning, it was an honor to attend and speak at the 4th Annual Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk – a special thank you to Deborah Tomai for her leadership in the Rio Grande Valley!
I ended the day by having a “BALL” at the 2016 Children’s Festival in Brownsville – an inclusive festival for all individuals with disabilities and their peers! It was a phenomenal celebration and way to celebrate all abilities!
I can’t wait to return to the Rio Grande Valley! A very special thank you to the Zarate and Mendoza families for being such wonderful hosts! Thank you for showing Rio Grande Valley that #advocacymatters!