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Learning the child they're about to bring into the world may have developmental or health problems is a parent's worst fear.
When tests indicated Sandra and Don Driedger's second child had a good likelihood of being born with Down Syndrome, they pressed on despite the uncertainty of the future.
Clara is now eight years old, the cards and balloons from her recent birthday still scattered around her family's New Westminster home. She attends Herbert Spencer school. She loves television and horsing around on the tire swing in the front yard.
But her future is no less certain.
At first the Driedgers carried on as the parents of any newborn.
"She was just a baby, and we had to take care of her," says Don. "If you looked ahead too far, you knew life was going to be different."
"You really want to live a normal life," says Sandra. "It's difficult to accept at first."
But as Clara grew older and her mental and physical challenges became more apparent, the Driedgers had to acknowledge they'd need help to ensure their daughter would enjoy a happy, independent and fulfilling life.
They started to tap into some of the resources their doctors had told them were available for families with a Down Syndrome child, including a speech therapy program at the Down Syndrome Research Foundation in Burnaby.
Very quickly the facility became much more than just a place to help Clara develop her skills, says Sandra.
"Everyone who's there understands. We share something, we can talk about the same things."
"Every parent loves it when others take an interest in your kid, understands and appreciates them," says Don.
The weekly sessions at the Foundation didn't just help Clara improve her speech and reading skills, they also helped bring out her determination, made her more confident.
"She's in a place where she's comfortable," says Don. "She's developed her own sense of humour. She's developed into Clara."
Working with the staff at the Foundation has also helped ease some of their own fears, says Don. They're able to advocate for Clara in the school system and with doctors. They've opened their eyes to Clara's possibilities rather than her limitations.
"We've had to learn that we can't be responsible for everything," says Don. "We've had to build a community around Clara."
Much of that community, including many of her classmates and her teachers at Herbert Spencer, will be among 1,000 people participating in the 16th annual Run Up for Down Syndrome at Simon Fraser University on Sunday. They'll be led by Burnaby's Mike Santorelli, a center with the Florida Panthers. The run is a family event that includes a 1.5 kilometre walk and a five km walk/run to raise money for the DSRF.
To learn more, register for the event, or to sponsor a participant, go to www.dsrf.org.