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      Help for those with special needs

      World Down Syndrome Day is a celebration. The Upper Peninsula Down Syndrome Association holds the party every March 21 to spread awareness and understanding of Down Syndrome.

      "It just really gets the awareness out so people know that it's not just something that happens to one random kid, and that kid's weird because of it, because really it's a common thing, so it happens to a lot of people," said Brendon Schuenke, a volunteer for the UPDSA. Brendon also has a younger brother with Down Syndrome.

      The UPDSA also provides a number of services to help new families that have a child with Down Syndrome. They're just one of many organizations to help those with special needs. On Facebook, other suggestions include Bay Cliff, Copper Country Autism Awareness, and the Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, or MARESA.

      MARESA's Parent Partner Services provide families with a direct link to a more experienced person with any mental or physical disabilities.

      "There we start to make connections, parent to parent and also parent to professionals, to try to assist that family," said Luanne Peterson, Special Education Director for MARESA.

      MARESA works with families by connecting them with other resources in Marquette and Alger Counties, resources like the UPDSA. The UPDSA seeks to help those with Down Syndrome lead healthy and productive lives.

      "People need to know that our kids and our adults and everybody who does have Down Syndrome is a person just the same as you or I and a lot more like us than we realize," said Lourie Schuenke, UPDSA President."It's fun to have an extra chromosome," said 29-year-old Amanda Sheridan who has Down Syndrome.

      Luanne, at MARESA, can be reached at (906) 226-5160 for information on MARESA's resources and on how to volunteer.