December 2002 Issue

Our next meeting is scheduled for February 2003. We wish all families a joyful and blessed Christmas. With this issue we enclosed a pamphlet on the Therapeutic Equestrian Program from Beverly Farms, Godfrey, as well as an article with a disconcerting final sentence: "I think every family should have a child with Down syndrome" to which we add an excerpt from Le Professeur Lejeune, fondateur de la génétique moderne (Mame, 1998) by Jean-Marie Le Méné, translated for us by Christine Platt:

Who can predict a child's destiny?
One of my friends, Professor Varkani, who taught embryology at Cincinnati, told me the following story: "The night of April 20, 1889, my father, who was a physician in Braunau, Austria, was called at two childbirths. One was for a loudly screaming good-looking baby boy; the other was for a poor trisomic baby girl. My father followed the destiny of these two children. The boy had an extremely brilliant career. The girl's destiny was rather gloomy. Yet, when the girl's mother was stricken with hemiplegia, this girl, whose intellectual quotient was very mediocre, kept the house with the help of neighbors, and gave four happy years of life to her bedridden mother."
Lejeune adds: "The old Austrian physician does not remember the name of the little girl, but he could never forget the name of the little boy: His name was Adolph Hitler."

This issue is in tribute to Holly Wrobbel.

STARNet Region IV
February 21. 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Merging Early Learning Standards with IEP's. Strategies for writing meaningful and productive IEP goals and objectives will be addressed from both the legal and practical sides. Presented by Vaughn W. Morrison, MS Ed and MSW and was employed 26 years by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) providing a variety o services for students, parents and educational staff. Location: Holiday Inn, 222 Potomac Blvd., Mount Vernon, IL. To register call 397-8930, ext. 166.

blank.gif  Regional Events
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. You and your family are invited to attend the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis Winter Wonderland Holiday Party. High Ridge Elks Club, 2808 Old Hunning Road, High Ridge, MO 63049.
1:00 Pizza, Salad and desert will be served
2:00 A very special guest appearance from Mr. and Mrs. Claus
2:00 - 4:00 Music and dancing

Talk-Tools™ Seminars in Oral-Motor Therapy in St. Louis, MO.
February 16, 2003. Tongue Thrust Therapy: An Oral-Motor Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment. This workshop introduces Robyn Merkel-Piccini's "SMILE Program" (SysteMatic Intervention for Lingual Elevation) encompassing oral-facial myology and its related diagnosis and treatment. It familiarizes participants with myofunctional disorders and related therapies as part of cleft palate, cranio-facial and dental abnormalities, and uses oral-motor therapy techniques to treat various disorders of articulation and speech production. (Tuition includes copy of SMILE Program Manual). Presented by Presented by Robyn Merkel-Piccini MA, CCC-SLP, with over 8 years of experience in the state of New Jersey. She is employed full time by the Ridgefield Board of Education in addition to her private practice, located in Fairview, NJ.
February 16-17, 2003. Level 1: A Three-Part Treatment Plan for Oral-Motor Therapy. Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson's unique tactile-sensory approach to speech therapy uses therapy tools 'disguised' as toys! See how 40 fun-to-use exercises can be used to improve phonation, resonation, and speech clarity. Interactive, hands-on demonstrations will focus on therapeutically sound techniques that develop the oral-motor muscles needed for improving speech clarity: abdomen, velum, jaw, lips and tongue. Your child and adult clients will actually want to do them because they are fun and they work! (dysarthria/apraxia). Presented by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP, who has more than 30 years of experience as a speech and language pathologist and has spent the last 20 years perfecting her unique brand of oral-motor speech therapy with a high degree of success, even where traditional speech therapy has failed. Now she is devoted to teaching others the methods so they can help their clients with difficult-to-remedy articulation problems.

moonlight is the newsletter of the Riverbend Down Syndrome Association.

Editor: Victor Bishop
Web Site:

She is the author of Oral-Motor Exercises for Speech Clarity and The Homework Book. Sara founded Innovative Therapists International in 1995 as a speaker's bureau and source for oral-motor therapy tools. She has held seminars throughout the United States as well as in Europe. She is the international spokesperson for Moebius Syndrome and CHARGE Syndrome, and a nationally recognized presenter for Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy associations for both professional and parent organizations. Sara also has been a featured speaker for ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) state and national conventions. The Ithaca College and Columbia University graduate founded Sara R. Johnson Oral-Motor Speech & Language Associates in South Salem, N.Y. The clinic specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of clients with oral-motor based feeding and/or speech disorders.
February 16-17, 2003. Feeding Therapy: A Sensory Motor Approach. Frustrated with clients who don't have intact sensory systems? Lori will show you a step-by-step approach to teach your most challenging clients to become tolerant of touch so as to enable them to learn to eat and to use Oral-Motor therapy tools. Day 1 focuses on promoting acceptance of touch for feeding and oral exercises. Her techniques incorporate a variety of temperatures, textures and tastes. Day 2 features hands-on learning of proper therapeutic techniques for spoon-feeding, straw drinking and chewing solid foods. Leave this workshop with therapeutic feeding techniques that you can use with confidence the next day. Presented by Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, with more than 20 years of professional experience. She has been in private practice for the last fifteen years. Lori specializes in dealing with the unique needs of children from birth to five years old. She has incorporated oral-motor techniques into feeding and speech therapy with these children. She has given numerous in-service workshops to schools and private associations in Connecticut and New York. In addition to being a member of ITI's speaker bureau, she is clinical supervisor at Sara R. Johnson Oral-Motor Speech & Language Associates in South Salem, N.Y. She holds degrees from Hofstra University and Adelphi University and is completing her doctoral dissertation at Adelphi.
February 17, 2003. A Multi Sensory Approach for Children with Hearing Impairments. Presented by Lois Kam Heymann, MA, CCC-SLP. Lois presents her comprehensive approach for treatment of children with hearing impairments. This program familiarizes participants with the use of hearing technology in treatment, including cochlear implants, hearing aids and FM/soundfield systems. The day will be filled with techniques in planning and executing therapeutic intervention strategies including listening, speech, language and pragmatics for children with varying degrees of hearing loss from infants to teens. The "how-tos" of coordinating an interdisciplinary team will also be presented. This class is appropriate for speech pathologists, audiologists, parents and educators working with children with hearing impairments.

To register, call Talk-Tools, 3420 N. Dodge Blvd., Suite G, Tucson, AZ 85716, at (866) 369-3543 or online at Fax: (520) 795-8559, E-mail:

March 21-22, 6:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. The 9-hour Wrightslaw Advocacy Training Program will be held at Hayden Auditorium, Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School, Illinois State University's campus. The sponsors for this advocate training program are StarNet, Illinois State University, Livingston County Local Interagency Council, Ford-Iroquois County Local Interagency Council, McLean County Local Interagency Council, Child & Family Connections #16, Child Care Resource & Referral Network. The auditorium is located on the southwest corner of S. University St. and E. College Ave. in Normal, Illinois 61761.
Friday evening session will cover Special Education Law: IDEA, Extended School Year, Child Find, Least Restriction Environment, Private Placements, Evaluations, Reevaluations, Individualized Education Programs (IEP's), Procedural Safeguards, Complaints, Notice, Placements in Alternative Educational Setting, Section 504. Saturday's session will be more intensive and personalized. Participants will have opportunities to network as they learn how to use special educational statutes and regulations to get answers to questions and how to use tests and measurements to measure educational progress.
The registration fee will be $50.00 per person which will include copies of the Wrightslaw: Special Education Law and Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy books.
For further information, call Carol Darveau at (815) 657-8686 or e-mail:

Down Syndrome Articles
Beyond Limitations by Laura Watts, Program Director,, At The Center, Premier Edition Oct. 2002, p. 1.
Empty faces pressed against the black iron bars and stared out at the road. We drove by quickly. I saw no ages, no gender - only vacant eyes with open mouths and closed minds. This was Willowbrook in Staten Island, the institution for the "mentally retarded" that conjured up visions of horror and mystery in my five-year-old mind. This was my introduction to the limitations placed on the expectations of those diagnosed with a disability.
When our son was born 14 years ago there was a myriad of "black bars" surrounding him - the most significant of which was the diagnosis of Down syndrome. The prognosis was grim - "He may not walk, he may not talk and he most likely won't be toilet trained until he's around 16". Now he not only walks but he jogs. He talks, in fact, he chatters and he was toilet trained at age 2. And as a bonus he reads, writes, loves the Jaguars (especially Coach Coughlin) and can party the night away. Terrific medical treatment? Great parents? Perfect therapists? More likely a combination of a consistent flow of unbiased intervention, unconditional love and unlimited expectations.
Clients come to the Down Syndrome Center on a regular basis with stories of limitations and low expectations placed by well-meaning family, friends and professionals. "He can't read - he has Down syndrome". "He behaves like that because he has Down syndrome", "You won't have any adolescent problems with him - these children are always so sweet" - and, my personal favorite - "Don't worry - that's just the way Downs kids are".
Unfortunately these statements are based on past history and statistics derived from cases of adults with DS who did not receive the early intervention or ongoing therapies and education our children have available now. And unless those working with the child have seen a variety of children with Down syndrome in recent years, they are not aware of the successes and accomplishments now becoming a way of life for these individuals.
At the Down Syndrome Center we have seen close to 400 families of children with Down syndrome. We have seen children born with heart defects excel at sports and "non readers" begin to read in their teenage years. We have 18-month-old babies recognizing word cards and high schoolers tackling geometry. We have students on the A-B honor roll in typically developing elementary school classes and others thriving in special education environments. And we have witnessed the transformation of students labeled as "behavior problems" become model students after appropriate intervention. These children have taught us not to place limitations. They have disproved the "one size fits all" prognosis.
The Staten Island institution has since been shut down and empty faces peer through the bars no more. Attitudes about those who resided there have changed and progress has been made. Ironically, such institutions that robbed the lives of hundreds have provoked the need for change and been the catalyst for facilities such as Hope Haven, committed to seeing the potential and watching it grow. Our children have faces full of expectation and eyes reflecting hope.
Knowing our limitations is a good thing. It helps us set goals, discover our strengths and strive to overcome our weaknesses. But accepting these limitations without challenge brings us back to open mouths and empty lives. It brings us back to Willowbrook.

Worries, hard work and rewards: A child with Down syndrome can bring out the best in a parent by David Crary, 08/31/02. Reprinted with permission of Norman Goldstein,, The Associated Press.
COLT'S NECK, NJ - A few weeks after her second daughter was born, Carole Ehlinger received a card from longtime friends. The gist of the message: "You're so lucky."
Struggling to absorb the fact that her newborn had Down syndrome, Ehlinger found the card perplexing - though not for long.
"I didn't understand right away, but that message has really rung true," Ehlinger said. "Catherine has brought out the best in all of us."
Catherine is 23 now, a high school graduate with a boyfriend, working three afternoons a week bagging groceries at a supermarket. Adult and independent in many ways, trustingly childlike in others, she has - like other young people with mental disabilities - provided her parents with a distinctive set of challenges and joys.
"I remember coming home from the hospital, and looking at the comics in the paper and thinking, 'I'll never be able to laugh again,"' Ehlinger recalled. "If only I'd known how wonderful it was going to be."
In the span of one generation, the dynamics of families like the Ehlingers have been transformed as the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome - the most common form of mental retardation - increased from 25 years to more than 50.
Parents no longer assume they will outlive their child, and the option of mental institutions has fallen from favor. Parents and child often spend many more years together than in the past, and parents face difficult decisions about encouraging self-reliance and ensuring a grown child's well-being after their death.
For Carole Ehlinger and her husband, Jim, an executive with AT&T Corp., concerns about the future are eased somewhat by their expectation that Catherine's siblings - Christine and James - could keep an eye on her.
The future has more question marks for others.
Maureen Maimone's 17-year-old son, J.C., also has Down syndrome, but he is an only child, and Maimone worries about what might happen if she dies before he does.
"I have such a profound fear about when I'm not here any more," she said. "Who's going to think about where he'll go for Thanksgiving? Who's going to know he's afraid of thunderstorms?"
Divorced when J.C. was 5, Maimone has been her son's constant companion since his birth. Aside from one 10-day separation many years ago, when she attended a meeting in Hawaii, they haven't been apart more than three days. She wants to encourage his sense of self-sufficiency, but knows not to push too fast.
"He's extremely friendly, he talks to strangers," she said at their home in Ocean, NJ "I try to teach him to be cautious, but not make him fearful."
J.C. attends regular classes at the local high school and also takes special math and reading courses.
"J.C. is very popular in school," his mother said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't carry over to the weekends. His schoolmates aren't going to call."
The result is that Maimone, 46, and her longtime partner, 59-year-old lawyer Andy Kimmel, are J.C.'s weekend playmates - a role they find rejuvenating. They go to concerts, play mini-golf, travel - railroad museums are among J.C.'s favorite destinations.
"The challenge is getting our energy level up," Maimone said. "We're usually on the go all weekend. Sometimes we're pooped, and all three of us just hang out in the bookstore."
Maimone grew up in a large family, and wishes J.C. had the same opportunity.
"Sometimes I think his biggest disability is being an only child," she said. "I have the finances, and the time to do what I want to do with him, but he doesn't have the other stimulation. I wish he had a brother or sister to tease him, play with him."
Maimone recalled being stunned, after J.C.'s birth, at learning he had Down syndrome.
"There was no history of it our families," she said. "We thought, 'He's not ours. It's a mistake.' It was the initial shock, and then 'Let's roll up our sleeves and learn about it."'
She read advice books, contacted experts, founded a support group. Her life -which includes some part-time legal work done from home - has been demanding but rewarding.
"I have those moments where I see that it's different here, that most parents don't have to do all this," she said. "But I truly think that's a small price to pay for what I've gotten back from him. If there's any kind of plus minus-scale, it's 1,000 times on the plus side."
On most Saturdays, J.C. gets a visit from his biological father, who takes him to drum lessons. The role of day-to-day father is embraced zestfully by Kimmel, who like Maimone is divorced. He says his relationship with J.C. is more intense than with his two grown children.
"I love them dearly, but it's not the same thing," Kimmel said. "J.C. is an extraordinary person."
With Kimmel's help, Maimone is now looking ahead, talking about vocational training and future living arrangements for J.C., and also about estate planning.
"Who wants to think about these things? But you have to," Maimone said. "If you don't make plans, they just get dumped somewhere."
She envisions her son getting a job after high school, and moving eventually into an assisted-living facility where he could be more independent.
"I'd love to have him live with me forever - but I'd like him settled somewhere before anything happens to me," Maimone said. "By his late 20s, I'd like to see him living somewhere on his own - definitely nearby - maybe a mile down the road."
J.C. - a strong swimmer, self-taught harmonica player and fan of Jackie Chan - has his own ideas about the future. "I'm going to get married," he said. "I'm going to drive a black VW bug."
But if those are typical sentiments of a 17-year-old boy, his affection for his best friend is not. "You're the best mom ever," he told Maimone, through a hug, as she picked him up at day camp. "You're my pumpkin."
The Maimones and Ehlingers live about 12 miles apart in the pleasant, farm-dotted suburbs near New Jersey's northern coast. Both have become active in programs for young people with disabilities.
When Catherine was 2, Carole Ehlinger founded a dance group for her and other children with disabilities. The group has prospered ever since, with help from the entire Ehlinger family. Catherine has taught some of the youngest dancers; siblings Christine and James were volunteer teachers, and Jim has videotaped some performances.
James, 19, has been a devoted brother to Catherine. They helped each other learn to read when she was 6 and he was 2. More recently, he and some friends coached Catherine's Special Olympics basketball team.
With James entering the University of Notre Dame this fall and Christine, 25, living an hour's drive away, Carole and Jim Ehlinger are in no hurry for Catherine to leave home - she needs them.
"We've chosen to take things as they come," Ehlinger said. "For all your children, your goal is for them to go off and have wonderful, independent lives. For Catherine it's a little tricky. She needs someone to oversee her."
Some experts advocate independent living for people like Catherine, "but it doesn't really ring true to us right now," her father said. "We enjoy having her here. She brings a lot to the family."
If Catherine did live independently, she would need help with cooking, transportation (she can't drive) and finances, her parents said.
"She's very trusting, and someone could take advantage of her," Jim Ehlinger said. "But we've been fortunate. Despite what you read in the newspapers, there are more people who are basically good than bad."
Mrs. Ehlinger long ago gave up teaching to raise her children, and her husband has turned down offers of transfers. One factor, he said, was a sense that Catherine benefited from close ties to friends she has known since infancy in New Jersey.
Catherine's life has been full of milestones, including graduation from high school two years ago and serving as her sister's maid of honor last October. The Ehlingers proudly showed the videotape of Catherine's speech at the wedding reception.
"I love you guys," Catherine told the newlyweds, her voice full of emotion. "I want you guys to stay together forever."
The guests cheered, and Christine rose from her table to bear-hug her sister.
When Catherine was born, her mother recalled, a well-meaning doctor tried to caution the parents that her horizons were limited - that at 16 she'd perhaps be preoccupied with coloring books.
"That was the mindset at the time - don't have high expectations," Mrs. Ehlinger said.
Instead, Catherine has been a pivotal part of a loving, on-the-go family - the one most attuned to others' ups and downs, the one most certain to remember an anniversary or birthday.
"She's been such a positive element in our lives," her mother said. "I think every family should have a child with Down syndrome."

Kelly Sweeney and her parents
Kelly Sweeney and her parents, Cathy and Kevin. Gary Gaynor/Tucson Citizen
How Kelly learned to soar. A child with Down syndrome gets an unusual education through the dedication of others by Gabriel Fimbres,, Tucson Citizen. July 15, 2002. Reprinted with the permission of Michael A. Chihak, Editor and Publisher, Copyright © 2002 Tucson Citizen.
Kelly may be the first to be educated from kindergarten through high school in regular classrooms.
She was different than the other first-graders on the playground.
Her speech was harder to understand. She was not as graceful. She looked different.
As a child with Down syndrome, Kelly Sweeney stood out at Henry Elementary School, on Tucson's East Side.
"One day at recess, Kelly was on the playground, and there were kids making fun of her," recalls one of Kelly's lifelong friends, Janae Springer, 18.
"I took Kelly by the hand and said, 'Kelly, I'll be your friend,' " which started a childhood of play dates, sleepovers, secrets and giggle fests.
In May, Kelly, now 19, became what is believed to be the first person in Tucson and possibly the state with a moderate disability to graduate from high school after having been in inclusion classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade.
She was the only graduating senior at Sahuaro High School to receive a standing ovation. Kelly blew kisses and waved to her admirers, aglow in the spotlight.
"It was neat," Kelly recalled of her graduation. "There were a lot of balloons."
Painfully shy except with friends and family, Kelly giggled and dashed off to the safety of her parents' room during a conversation with a reporter.
Kelly's parents, Cathy and Kevin Sweeney, believe inclusion - teaching Kelly only in classrooms filled with general education students - helped her soar. Inclusion means special education students are in a general classrooms. Curriculum is modified, sometimes drastically, to help the students. Often, aides are brought in to help.
"Everything I could have hoped for Kelly is happening, and it's because of inclusion," says Cathy Sweeney, 46. "She's going to start college, she has a boyfriend, she's having as full a life as possible."
Armed with her high school diploma, Kelly plans to attend Pima Community College, beginning next month. Kelly, who volunteers at the Wilmot Library, hopes to land a part-time job and live with one of her best friends in an apartment.
Kelly with library aide Jessica Scoopmire
Kelly works with Wilmot Library aide Jessica Scoopmire. Gary Gaynor/Tucson Citizen
The accomplishments are tremendous for a young woman who came close to death in her first days of life. Like many with Down syndrome, Kelly was born with severe heart problems.
"When Kelly was born, I wondered if she was going to have any friends or make her First Holy Communion or graduate," said Cathy, who works for the Blake Foundation, helping families with inclusion. "We never really knew how long we would have her, and we still don't. I think it's her spunkiness that has kept her alive this long."
Kelly's story starts more than 30 years ago when her mother, Cathy, met Kevin Sweeney. The two became high school sweethearts, and they married in 1974.
"We wanted a dozen kids," recalls Kevin, a 47-year-old air-conditioner contractor who is working toward a master's degree in social work.
They reconsidered that number after the births of their boys, Brandon and Adam. But they knew they wanted more. On June 20, 1983, Cathy, then 27, gave birth to Kelly at St. Joseph's Hospital.
"I was thrilled she was a girl," Cathy recalled. "She was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
"But then I saw the nurse who had been with me all the 13 hours I was in labor was standing in the corner, crying."
The Sweeneys, who were joined by Cathy's mother, Joan Hall, were not allowed to hold Kelly. They were told she had serious heart problems, and Down syndrome was suspected.
"I remember the three of us just grasped on to each other and started bawling," Cathy recalled.
"But the minute I held her I knew everything was going to be OK. I remember a feeling of calm came over me."
Brandon and Adam, who were 5 and 2, did not understand why their sister did not come home from the hospital.
"I told them she was going to learn things differently, and she has a broken heart," Cathy recalled. "Brandon said, 'That's OK. Our hearts still love her.' In her first two years, Kelly twice had open-heart surgery to save her life.
Kelly, who loves riding in her grandmother's red convertible, reading "Goosebumps" books and watching romance movies, became the joy of her family. She continues to have heart problems. She has a pacemaker and inhales oxygen as she sleeps.
As a child, the Sweeneys learned it was possible for Kelly to attend a school not designed for special ed students. Inclusion was becoming popular in other parts of the country and was just starting in Tucson.
But the Sweeneys said they were laughed at when they told Tucson Unified School District officials they wanted Kelly to attend Henry, the neighborhood school.
"We just cried in each others arms, and that's where we empowered ourselves," Kevin said.
"I just remember thinking she deserves more," Cathy said. "We're not going to hide her away. She's a gift, and we're going to share her with the community."
The Sweeneys were unwavering in their desire to have Kelly in regular education classrooms. But some teachers, administrators and aides did not believe Kelly belonged in a regular classroom.
"There was resistance all the way through," said Phyllis Brodsky, curriculum specialist at TUSD, who met Kelly in middle school. "That's not to criticize anyone; it's just the nature of change."
On Kelly's first day of kindergarten, her brother spotted her alone on the playground, eyes cast to the sand.
Her parents were devastated.
The following day, Cathy spoke with Kelly's classmates. She told the children about Down syndrome and Kelly's surgeries.
That afternoon, Kelly's brother reported that she had 13 friends on the playground.

Kelly and her boyfriend, John Le Clair Kelly and John in 1991
Left, Kelly and her boyfriend, John Le Clair, on prom night April 27, 2002. Right, Kelly and John in 1991. Gary Gaynor/Tucson Citizen
In third grade, Kelly met John Le Clair. A decade later, Kelly and John met again when he attended her 18th birthday party.
"I danced with him at the party. I danced two slow dances," Kelly said.
The two have dated for a year now. Kelly had been invited by a popular, hunky fellow student and friend - Kevin Dickson - to attend the senior prom. But Kelly broke her date with Kevin when John invited her to the prom.
"Kelly was really sweet in third grade, and she's even more terrific now," said Le Clair, 19.
Allie Freeman, another friend, recalled that it took a month for Kelly to talk to her.
"We met in sixth grade," Freeman said. "I introduced myself to her, but she was so shy, she ignored me."
After a month of attempts, Kelly finally approached Freeman. The two have been friends ever since. When Freeman starts school at the University of Arizona next year, she and Kelly plan to be sharing an apartment.
"She made me change my career," Freeman said. "I would like to be a school psychologist so I can help kids like Kelly who can do it on their own but need a little extra help."
"She taught me you don't have to be cool. You just have to be who you are."
Inclusion is easiest in the elementary years, Cathy said. Educational differences are not as great, and children can be more accepting.
"I remember feeling so afraid before Kelly started high school," Cathy recalled. The family organized a session of person-centered planning.
"We gathered the smartest people we knew and people that understood inclusion and being part of the community," she said. "We gathered everyone in her life who cares about her."
Kelly Sweeney gets a high-five from Janae Springer
Kelly Sweeney (left) gets a high-five from an old friend, fellow Sahuaro High School graduate Janae Springer, while Springer's mom, Jo Ann, looks on. Unpublished photograph courtesy of Gary Gaynor/Tucson Citizen
Kelly made many friends in high school and was close to old friends Janae Springer and her younger sister, Jordi Springer, now 16.
The sisters took Kelly to African American Culture Club meetings at Sahuaro. She was the only white student in the club.
Robert Vielledent, Sahuaro's athletic director, taught Kelly's computer class.
"She's just the type of kid everyone needs to be around," Vielledent said, who has seen many students in his 28 years at Sahuaro.
"She just made me a better human being" he said.
Kelly's friends agree. "We have changed a lot, but Kelly's great personality keeps us with her," Jordi Springer said.
They laugh until tears come when remembering a day years earlier when Kelly was determined she was going to spend the night at the Springers.
Kelly, who was home with her brothers, packed her "Going to Grandma's" suitcase, put on her fake fur coat and baseball cap - and set off in the wrong direction.
Luckily, a neighbor alerted Kelly's brothers.
The day after Kelly's graduation, they threw a huge party at St. Pius X Catholic Church. It was a celebration of Kelly's life and a way to thank those who helped along the way.
"My sister has taught me a lot," said Brandon, 24. "She always saw the good in everything. She is so pure."
The Sweeneys find great joy in their daughter's accomplishments.
"Truly, Kelly is a gift in our family," Cathy said. "She is an Earth angel to us. And I always knew God wanted her to be part of our community."

Downs Strikes 1 in 800
One in every 800 children is born with the chromosomal anomaly called Down syndrome.
An error in cell development results in 47 chromosomes rather that the usual 46. The extra gene material slightly changes the orderly development of the body and brain.
Women older than 35 are more likely to have children with Down syndrome, but because it is far more common for young women to give birth, about 80 percent of infants with Down syndrome are born to women under 35.

Web Wanderings
Father's Journal
Emmanuel likes flash cards, but the speech therapist stumped my son with a mermaid, despite hints of "The Little..." We do understand that Emmanuel is culturally deprived and we should take him immediately to Copenhagen and read him Book XII of the Odyssey, making sure his ears are not full of wax.
The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, has issued new Laboratory Medicine Practice Guidelines for thyroid testing, following are quotes from their website:
"It is likely that the current upper limit of the population reference range is skewed by the inclusion of persons with occult thyroid dysfunction."
"In the future, it is likely that the upper limit of the serum TSH euthyroid reference range will be reduced to 2.5 mIU/L because >95% of rigorously screened normal euthyroid volunteers have serum TSH values between 0.4 and 2.5 mIU/L."
"A serum TSH result between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L is generally considered the therapeutic target for a standard L-T4 replacement dose for primary hypothyroidism."