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Meet Gigi, our 2015 Ambassador

Marlo Hanck fell instantly in love when she gave birth to her second child, Genevieve "Gigi" Rose on July 3, 2012. When the doctors said two and a half hours later her daughter had Down syndrome, that love only grew stronger, but her fears became greater. Hanck worried what life would be like for her daughter physically, developmentally and socially.

Down syndrome, also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about one in every 800 babies born in the United States.

"I was scared to death for the future and really had no idea what to expect," Hanck said. "No parent wants their child to be treated differently or to struggle in life. I wondered if she would ever walk or talk, if she would be treated poorly or be healthy. I had so many questions and fears."

The Hanck family of Spring Valley hopes to raise awareness for Down syndrome and to let other new parents recently faced with this diagnosis know everything will be OK.

"I wish I knew then how much is possible with the help of organizations like Easter Seals of La Salle & Bureau Counties," Hanck said. "Gigi may have to work harder to reach milestones, but she is really not that different from any other child. I am so proud of Gigi and amazed at the pure love that pours out of that little body of hers. Life may be harder, but it is amazingly rewarding.

"We hope to use this opportunity to create support systems for parents of children with Down syndrome," Hanck continued. "We would like to raise awareness for both Down syndrome and the services that are provided by Easter Seals. I was amazed at how much progress Gigi had made in just a couple of weeks after receiving therapy. The therapists are all so wonderful, and have become a part of our family now."