Helping his buddies

By Carolyn Cole
Published on August 30, 2008

A Mustang family aims to hit a home run to help Oklahoma children living with Down syndrome.

The Joy family and Tanner’s Trotters team are aiming to raise a record $7,500 as part of The Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma Sept. 20 at the Bricktown Ballpark.

In 2006, Shaun and Jennifer Joy and their children Tanner and Tyler helped raise $6,281, but Jennifer Joy said her family faced a difficult year and took a break from the 2007 walk.

Joy said Tanner is telling everyone, “I’m a teenager; I’m 13,” with pride.

Like all teenagers, she said Tanner is facing changes in his life and body, but Down syndrome makes it more difficult for him to understand them.
“He goes through all of these moods, feelings ... he has a great day today, and something else is bugging him tomorrow,” Joy said.

As Tanner’s family prepares for the walk, he is also starting to attend Mustang North Middle School full-time, leaving Mustang Trails Elementary, where he has attended school since age 3.

Joy said her son is excited to ride the bus and attend school all day, including social studies and science, which he takes with modified instruction in a regular sixth-grade class.

“The kids were really great about accepting him and making him feel like a part of the class,” she said.

To prepare for this school year, Joy said Tanner has worked hard with a tutor, and added teachers are surprised to hear him read at a higher grade level.

“He can do a lot more than people think he can,” she said.

Since Tanner’s birth and diagnosis of Down syndrome, Joy and her husband Shaun have vowed to do everything possible to give their eldest son an independent life. Tanner plays and argues with his younger brother Tyler, loves movies and works on the computer.

He loves sports, she said, and has competed in Special Olympics in bowling, basketball, the softball throw and the 50-meter dash. In the summer he plays with the Mustang Cowboys “Anyone Can” softball team. Joy said her son loves baseball best of all.

“He will play with anybody in any kind of weather,” she said.

Tanner’s family hold high hopes for his future, Joy said, and they dream of a day when their son will live on his own and have a job with minimal help. As they work to help Tanner become more independent, she said support they received from other families has lifted their spirits.

The Joys are among five families of children with Down syndrome who helped found the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma after they struggled to find information about the disorder.
A decade later, the group has grown to more than 400 members offering information to new parents, a Christmas party and Easter egg hunt for children, an educator of the year award, scholarships for families to attend national conventions and support groups specifically for families, fathers, Spanish-speakers, couples and children.

Two fundraisers support the association’s activities — a charity golf tournament in the spring and the Buddy Walk Sept. 20 at the Bricktown Ballpark. The walk nets the charity more than $50,000 each year with more than 30 teams expected to participate.

Joy said anyone can walk, and Tanner’s Trotters needs more teammates. The event is held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donations can be mailed to The Joys at 116 Bellgate Drive, Yukon OK 73099 or at the Web site www.first giving.com/tanners trotters.

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