NEWS10 Special Report: Journey of Love

COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) – No milestone is taken for granted for a child with Down Syndrome.

“When Oliver took his first steps, it was like someone winning a marathon because they do have to work harder,” said Oliver’s new parents.

Oliver’s diagnosis came as a shock to Caroline and Jeff Stallmer a week after his birth.

“When they told us, we were in denial,” they said. “We were… we were devastated.”

But fear quickly turned to faith and they realized how truly special little Oliver is.

“He’s brought so much love to us and to our other children. He’s changed our lives,” Caroline said.

People with Down Syndrome have developmental delays affecting speech, motor and cognitive abilities, and potential health problems, but there’s help. Early intervention therapies, like music therapy, are all part of daily life now for young children with Down Syndrome.  It helps them reach critical milestones, like communication, through sign language and song. Children also receive speech, occupational, and physical therapy and special-ed.  It’s a whole new world.

However, some with Down Syndrome never get the chance to succeed.

“There’s a high abortion rate which is sad,” said Caroline.

In some parts of the world, they’re abandoned.

“We realized we could save another child,” Caroline continued.

So they made a decision to adopt a child with Down Syndrome, one they’d never met, from China.

“There was a lot of times when I started to say, I can’t do this, I can’t go to China,” said Caroline.

But Facebook lead her to the right adoption resources. The Stallmers launched their own fundraising effort, and the response, even from strangers was remarkable. $35,000 poured in.

“She puts it on Facebook and I’m watching the numbers climb to $500, $1,000, $1,500 it climbed like unbelievable. People are amazing,” said the Stallmers.

Months later, the adoption and trip fully funded, they took this family picture before Jeff and Caroline headed out.

Despite the long trip, before they knew it they were signing adoption papers and meeting their little guy, Oscar. Like Oliver, and born with Down Syndrome, Oscar was found abandoned in an alleyway, but now he was their son. Still, the initial adjustment was rough.

Photo Gallery of Oscar’s Journey

“I started questioning are we doing the right thing,” Jeff said.

But as the Stallmers learned to meet Oscar’s needs, a bond quickly formed.

Soon they were getting Oscar’s passport, the medical checkups, and preparing to bring him home to meet his family, fitting in some play time too, all the while getting to know their brand new son.

The Stallmers two other children, Madelyn and Thomas took to Oscar immediately, but Oscar didn’t exactly take to Oliver at first.

Then came the realization, Oscar had no therapy in China and would need a lot of help.

Now, all the Stallmers learn from the therapists, they work with both boys now, giving Oscar a quality of life and the love of a family he might never have had. His parents will tell you, they’re the lucky ones.

“To be involved with these kids you become a better person and that’s what’s so great about awareness,” said Jeff. “They’re a joy they’re a treasure,” Caroline added. There’s just something exceptional about them, they light up your world,” Jeff continued.

Helping two sons with D.S. reach their full potential, the Stallmers say, they’re all better people, appreciating life more, from a different perspective. People with D.S. have developmental delays because of an extra copy of the 21st chromosome.

Today, with the right supports and therapies which are paid for by the state of New York,  through the school age years many ultimately go to college, have jobs, some get married, and live independently.

If you’d like to help another family give a child with D.S. a forever home visit http://www.reecesrainbow.org/

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