Superhero Family Steps Up For Down Syndrome

Posted at: 09/27/2013 2:35 PM
Updated at: 09/27/2013 11:01 PM

Sammy Olsen
Sammy Olsen

Sunday, September 29, hundreds of people will hit the pavement in Duluth for the
the step up for down syndrome walk.  This will be the second year for one Northland family who knows the true power of community support.

There's never a dull moment in the Olsen family.  There's Mom Angela, Dad Pete, charismatic four-year-old Ella and their youngest,16-month-old Sam. 

Pete is an emergency room physician in Cloquet which keeps him pretty busy, but the family still manages to make time for each other.  That includes date nights for mom and dad, daddy daughter dates for Ella and plenty of play time for little Sammy.

"We don't like to sit still," Angela said.  

Their busy schedule includes physical therapy and support groups for Sammy who has down syndrome.  The family didn't know about Sammy's extra chromosome during Angela's pregnancy.  However, Angela's motherly instinct told her the news when she first held her new baby boy.

"We didn't know before Sam was born that he had down syndrome. But as soon as our eyes met, after he was born, I knew," she said. 

That day in May of 2012 is where the Olsen family started their journey to finding their new normal.

"After carrying him for so long, it didn't matter and it never has mattered," Angela said.  "Yes, we went though a time where our expectations changed and we had to really work through that as a family."

"It's about gaining perspective and realizing the incredible gift that you have and that's what Sam is," Pete said.

The Olsens found strength through the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota.  It's an organization that offers support and resources to people with down syndrome throughout the state. 

Families get resources right off the bat while their babies are still in the hospital, according to the Olsens.

"They provided information right in the hospital," Angela said.  "It made it a really good transition for us to get involved."

They're also very active in the Northland's local down syndrome group, Down Up North.  The group of people touched by down syndrome in our area get together to support each other and just have fun.  They have meetings, picnics and plenty more activities to support one another, Angela said.

A big part of that support is the Step up for Down Syndrome Walk here in Duluth.  Every year hundreds of people head to the DECC for the family friendly fundraiser.  It's a great way to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota while learning more about people with down syndrome.

"Folks with down syndrome have a unique perspective on life that we don't get and they are privy to a special kind of joy, probably a divine joy that we don't quite understand," Pete said.  "The joy that they bring to all of our lives makes it a privilege to have them as part of our community."

The walk is full of fun stuff for kids, such as face painting, games and food. This will be the Olsen team's second year and they're keeping a very heroic theme going.

"Last year we created Sammy's team, "Sammy's Superheroes" and we all dressed up as Superheroes.  Sammy had a cape the size of a wash cloth," Angela said. 

You can catch the Super Hero Olsen family out again this year at the walk and they say they'll be joined by even more supporters.  Pete says that's a very important part of the walk, brining people together.

"This whole event is about more than just awareness.  It's goes back to community and Duluth has a phenomenal community," he said. 

Although they're busy with Down Up North, work and so much more, they still make time for adventures.  The family of four even made their way to Kenya for a two-month mission trip this past January.

"We packed up our bags and went to Kenya for two months.  Pete worked at a rural hospital there and we just got to experience what life is like living in rural Kenya," Angela said.

Angela says Ella talks about Kenya all the time and the whole family agrees it has had a big impact on them.  So much so that they hope to move back for an extended period of time in two to three years. 

"That's something that we've wanted to do for a very long time," Angela said.  "Since long before we knew each other."

Angela hopes to train teachers and Pete plans to train doctors in rural Kenya.  Meanwhile, the kids will live, learn and grow in a whole new way.

"We've seen what we want to see here and we're ready to serve internationally," Pete said.

Learn more about the Olsen family on the blog Little Olsen

Don't miss the Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk Sunday, September 29 at the DECC in Duluth. Registration starts at 12:30 p.m. And the walk begins at 1:30 p.m.

Visit the Down Syndrome Associations of Minnesota's Web Site for more information about the walk and the resources they offer.

If you're interested in connecting locally learn more about the Down Up North group by CLICKING HERE.

Good Morning Northland Anchor Brittany Falkers will be the mater of ceremonies at this year's walk and invites all of the Northland to come out and support these amazing individuals and their families.