LAKEWOOD RANCH — As Laura Kramer cradled her 6-month-old son, Mason, gently touching his brown hair, the infant’s smile turned triumphant in his mother’s arms.
While Mason’s birth brought incredible joy to his parents, it also caused them fear as they learned their third child had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Even before the diagnosis was confirmed, Laura Kramer had begun a frantic search for information.
“It was just so much at once,” Kramer said. “I didn’t know where to begin.”
Thankfully, Kramer found a new and expectant parent kit put together by Manasota BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome), a non-profit dedicated to families with Down syndrome children, that was stuffed with information about Down syndrome, books to explain it to older siblings and other resources.
“It was amazing,” Kramer said. “Everything was right there for me. I was really grateful. There’s so much information (out there) and you don’t know what’s right and what’s not.”
Manasota BUDS accepted a $2,400 grant from the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund to continue its kit program during a special awards ceremony Oct. 16 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. There, the fund doled out nearly $80,000 to 17 local non-profits and groups such as B.D. Gullett Elementary School, the Braden River Soccer Club and Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, which received funding for everything from tutoring and mentoring programs to providing respite services for families with special needs or chronically ill children.
Manasota BUDS volunteer and kit organizer Michelle Summers said the Community Fund’s generosity is making a lasting imprint on the community.
“This grant is vital for us to keep those kits coming,” she said. “If we could do nothing else (as an organization), this is what we would do — give people information for them to begin and give people support.”
Ann Marie Welty, chief development officer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, said the $5,000 grant her organization received will allow it to launch a drop-out prevention mentoring program called “Decisions to Win” at Lakewood Ranch High School.
“This is the seed money that makes it possible for us to bring the program here,” she said. “This was so exciting for us.”
A grant for $30,000, included in the total, was awarded to the Lakewood Ranch YMCA in June for it to continue its Teen Outreach Program.
Community Fund President Cathy Layton said the need for the organization’s services has never been greater. This year it received the highest number of requests for financial assistance this year with more than 60 applications.
“A lot of people look at Lakewood Ranch and think there are no needs,” Layton said. “It gives us great pleasure to know our community benefits from the donations of its residents and businesses.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gullett Elementary School $3,179
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Sun Coast $5,000
Braden River Soccer Club $3,000
CARE — Center for Autism Resource & Education $3,200
Haile Middle School Special Needs $1,775
Easter Seals of Southwest FL $5,000
Family Network on Disabilities of Manatee/Sarasota $3,500
Family Resources $1,971
Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee $3,000
Manasota BUDS $2,400
Manatee Children’s Services $3,960
Manatee Community Action Agency $3,800
Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee $4,192
Willis Elementary School, Kindergarten math $495
The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida $2,500
We Care Manatee $3,000
YMCA Lakewood Ranch $30,000
Total grants: 17
Total dollars: $79,972