The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA) sends a heartfelt message of gratitude to Her Excellency Dame Patsy Reddy for her support as the Patron of the organisation as it marks the start of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

This week  is the start of a month of celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the NZDSA, who have supported families and advocated for people with Down Syndrome since 1981.

Dame Patsy last week finished her term as Governor General and NZDSA President Kim Porthouse says that the 40th anniversary of NZDSA is a terrific opportunity to also mark the wonderful contributions by its distinguished Patron.

“On behalf of all our members, staff and the wider Down syndrome community, we want to send a genuine message of thanks to Her Excellency Dame Patsy Reddy and we would like to wish her every success in her future endeavours,” says Porthouse.

The NZDSA President says that her community has appreciated Her Excellency partnering with the NZDSA to promote its vision that people with Down syndrome are respected, valued and equal members of their community fulfilling their potential and aspirations.

“What has also been notable is the way she leads by example, always showing genuine warmth and respect when engaging with people with Down syndrome and our wider community,” says Porthouse.

“Dame Patsy’s participation in the work of the NZDSA has assisted to change the attitudes and perceptions of the wider population, so that communities are more welcoming and include people with Down syndrome.”

Porthouse is particular grateful for the Governor General hosting the annual National Award ceremonies and presenting the Achievement Awards to people with Down syndrome.

“Being able to come to Government House and be hosted by the Governor General acknowledges the significance of these national achievements and serves to convey the important message that people with Down syndrome are worthy and contributing members of their community,” says Porthouse, adding that Her Excellency’s support of World Down Syndrome Day has facilitated greater awareness about the aspirations and abilities of people with Down syndrome.

The NZDSA started from a humble coffee group in Auckland in 1981 and will mark its 40th anniversary with the largest Virtual Down Syndrome Conference ever hosted in New Zealand.

The conference will offer webinars throughout October to cover a huge variety of important topics around health, employment, decision-making, relationships and well-being.

Porthouse says that the scope and variety of the webinars is unparalleled in the NZDSA’s long history and the conference is a significant event to mark this milestone month.

“It will also be a wonderful opportunity for the Down syndrome community to connect, support each other and focus on ensuring people with Down syndrome realise their aspirations and lead full, meaningful lives within their communities.”