As a collegiate soccer coach, I was always much more comfortable sneaking up on teams as the unknown. It was important that our team always went out on the field and had more heart and a stronger work ethic than our opponents. If the team left the field achieving those two goals, I was a happy coach and felt like I did my job. We might not have been the most technically talented team but we were still going to wear our hearts on our sleeves and in a lot more cases than not, we were successful.
Over the past two years, the soccer student-athletes at Salem College were on the NCAA DIII collegiate soccer map. Our little women’s college wasn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. The team had become respected throughout the South and everybody knew it would be very hard to beat us. This was culminated this past season, as we went toe to toe with the 2015 national champions.
Since we were on the map, I needed to find some new avenues to spread awareness. That is how the man van was born. I was able to go out in the city I love, Winston-Salem, and try my hardest to spread awareness and raise funds for organizations throughout our city. Whether it was for a dog that needed a home, a hungry family, senior citizens, or the homeless, I was going to do whatever I could (with the help of many through my social media platforms) to help out those with needs.
During my man van project a hunger grew in me and I began to realize this was something that I wanted to do all the time. I also started to connect with an organization, Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network (PDSSN), who I fell in love with. I knew that PDSSN had a hunger to grow and get their name out in the local community to help support all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The mission of PDSSN is to ensure these individuals in the Piedmont are valued, included, and given the opportunities to pursue the fulfilling lives that they deserve. Their aim is to enrich the lives of individuals with Down syndrome so they can reach their full potential. These individuals have heart-warming stories to share.
When I met with the board, I knew this was the organization I wanted to go to battle for. It felt like a perfect fit. Their goals fell in-line with a lot of what I had done through my man van project, and together it seemed like we could build on the past work PDSSN had done by providing more support and information to families throughout the Piedmont. Luckily, the board felt the same way and hired me as their second Executive Director.
With my experience fighting for the unknown at Salem and spreading awareness with the man van, I look forward to embarking on this new adventure. We have several lofty goals that the members, the board, and I won’t be able to achieve on our own. I love Winston-Salemites because they go to battle for a good cause. I look forward to spreading the PDSSN’s story so Winston-Salemites can fall in love with the organization like I did and help me fight for PDSSN.