By MATT KOESTERS
Down Syndrome of Louisville celebrated the opening of its Indiana Campus with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.
The Down Syndrome Lifelong Learning Center will operate out of a newly renovated space in the Goodwill-Bridgepointe Facility in Clarksville, and will serve a 10-county area in Indiana. The campus offers Lifelong Learning programs for adults weekly, and more programs are coming, said Diana Merzweiler, DSL executive director.
“Anything that we offer at the Kentucky campus, we’re hoping to expand to the Clarksville campus as we have more members,” she said.
And that could be sooner rather than later. DSL has already identified 250 individuals with Down Syndrome in Southern Indiana, and Merzweiler estimates that the region is home to about 250 more that the organization has not yet made contact with.
The DSL Louisville campus offers several programs, including school-age enrichment programs, educational resource and advocacy services, teen/adult skill-building, adult literacy and family networking.
Down occurs when some or all of a person’s cells have an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21, according to a DSL release. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. One in every 691 babies are born with Down syndrome.
The Ogle Foundation provided a $415,000 grant over three years to make the Indiana Campus a reality.
“There was a need for that on this side of the river, but there wasn’t really an organization structured or financially capable of creating something like that,” said Kent Lanum, president and CEO of the Ogle Foundation. “So I basically offered the Down Syndrome folks additional money if they would try to figure out how to work with the folks over here in Southern Indiana.”
The idea for the Indiana campus came together in 2010 when DSL was working on a capital campaign for the expansion of its Louisville campus, Merzweiler said.
“We had reached out to the Ogle Foundation for funding, and about that same time, the volunteer organization in Southern Indiana [Down Syndrome Support Association of Southern Indiana] had reached out to Ogle,” Merzweiler recalled. “Kent Lanum ... said, ‘Hey, how about we collaborate a little bit.’ It started out initially that we would mentor the volunteer group. But as we were in the early discussion, it started to make sense that a merger would really be the best solution.”
“It’s a win-win for Louisville as well as Southern Indiana,” Lanum said.