May 3, 2022 by Laura Harper Winters
Though I made many requests for one, my parents refused to get me a baby sister like I wanted. What I wouldn’t realize until much later was that I always had a sister.
My Aunt Libbi was born in 1960 with Down Syndrome, and though she was 22 years older than me, she was always the sister I never had. We vacationed together, played together and of course, sometimes fought...as sisters do. While we never looked at Libbi as having a disability, she certainly had some limitations but always seemed to have a dream life in spite of them. Worldwide travel, famous friends, the daily glass of wine at exactly 5:01pm as soon as her “stories” were over...the list goes on and on. Several years ago, however, her limitations grew more severe with her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease until the disease finally claimed her life a year ago. We miss her every day that goes by.
While people with Down Syndrome are living longer lives due to better healthcare and their acceptance into society rather than being sent into institutions, the bad news is that they are more prone to develop early onset Alzheimers than the rest of the population. How can we help reverse that trend and ensure they have not only more years, but that those years are as full as the rest of their beautiful lives?
We have decided to honor Libbi and her fabulous life by funding research that will help allow a better future with those behind her. It’s too late for Libbi, but the Libbi Thomas Foundation will continue in her memory to provide critical funds to the research program at Mass General where doctors are working to identify the biomarkers that make people with Down Syndrome more likely to develop Alzheimer’s as they age.
I look at this foundation as part of the legacy of the amazing women in my family. My grandmother ignored the advice of the doctors to send her newborn away to an institution, as was done at the time, and instead took her home and raised her exactly the same way she raised her other three children. My mother took on the responsibility of caring for Libbi once their parents were gone and spent hours researching programs that were available for Libbi to keep her mind sharp and her body healthy. Now, it’s my turn. I choose to carry on my family’s legacy of advocacy for those with Down Syndrome by ensuring that the younger generation won’t have to face the devastating effects of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis after they have already overcome so much.
Will you help?
This year, the Libbi Thomas foundation has been accepted into the Give for Good Program. Through this program, all donations made today, May 3, 2022, will receive a bonus percentage match which will be calculated based on participation. To receive a match, donations can be made here. All donations are 100% tax deductible and any amount is important as this research is woefully underfunded.
My family and I are grateful for your support.