TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2018) — Retired Army Veterans John and Yaluisneth (Yani) Bodor have spent their entire adult lives protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America. Their latest mission, to launch 21 & Change Inc., a Florida-based 501(c)(3) public nonprofit that will spearhead an effort to “Ending the Down syndrome ‘syndrome’.” Now they will support and defend the rights of those born with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.
Lithia residents John and Yani have three children: Gabriel (11), Alessandra (8) and Nicholas (6). Before their daughter Alessandra was born, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome and the strong probability of a congenital heart defect.
According to the couple, after you learn of a Down syndrome diagnosis, you go through the entire range of emotions in the days, weeks, and months that follow. Stationed in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia at the time, Yani said, “I remember it like it was yesterday. It took some time to learn what this would mean for our daughter, and for us to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world. The real connection came when we were introduced to a volunteer from a local Down syndrome organization.”
Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21; therefore, the Bodor’s selected 21 & Change as the name for this non-profit organization. 21 & Change was founded on the premise that all human lives have value and that all should have the opportunity to discover their full potential. The organization will take an active role in promoting inclusion in the community, public school system, workplace, and the pursuit of the full measure of civil rights for these individuals.
“The fight for inclusion, education, and civil rights is a big gap that needs to be filled. It takes more than talk. It means taking action, standing up for those that may not be able to stand up for themselves, and helping empower parents of children with developmental disabilities to advocate for their child’s rights,” John said.
“Education is a fundamental civil right for all in our society,” Yani said. That statement really strikes at the heart of the organization’s mission. 21 & Change will offer niche programs and services to the Down syndrome community and others with developmental disabilities. These programs and services include: the “First Connection” program, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) advocacy and IEP scholarship program, assistive technology information and resources focused on speech and education, the “Every Parent, A Leader” program, support to local military with exceptional family members, and public policy advocacy.
About a year ago, the Bodor’s oldest son Gabriel was diagnosed with Level I Autism. As the mother of two children with developmental disabilities, Yani is no stranger to the role of special education advocate. Yani recently took her role as an advocate one step further and received her certification as an IEP Advocate from the Twigs Advocate Training Program. The couple are also members of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a national peer-to-peer network dedicated to protecting and enforcing the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families.
21 & Change pursues public policy issues for the Down syndrome community and others who are developmentally disabled to advocate for their rights. The organization integrates this effort with the National Down Syndrome Society DS-Ambassador Program, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the National Down Syndrome Congress, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.
“Our efforts span the local, state and federal levels to address their issues, advocate for support, and promote social and legal change,” John said. With the help of like-minded parents, self-advocates and other supporters, 21 & Change intends to bring these issues to light with our State’s Congressional representatives. 21 & Change will also educate the community on Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities to raise understanding and promote acceptance.
On the federal level, the organization’s priorities will closely mirror those of the national level organizations. “They are working every day on Capitol Hill and across our Nation to protect and advance the rights of individuals with Down syndrome. Following their lead and building support in every congressional district in our region is vital to the collective effort,” John said.
The organization is strategically partnered with: Global Down Syndrome Foundation, National Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Congress, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and Pam Lindemann-The IEP Advocate. “One of our core values is ‘partnerships’, which we believe are the key to eventual success for our mission and their missions. We all want the same thing. I think we all agree our children are born with the same inherent right to freedom, to self-determination, to dignity and to respect as everyone else’s children.
21 & Change, Inc. is dedicated to ending the Down syndrome ‘syndrome’ through advocacy, support, and niche services in the Greater Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area and beyond.
The organization is seeking additional select board members, volunteers, strategic and local partners, and both corporate and individual sponsors.
For more information, please visit www.21andchange.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org today.