TOLEDO (WTOL) - World Down Syndrome Awareness Day was recognized Thursday and it’s a day that hits close to home for one Toledo family.
"She always has a place in her heart for me," said Bethany Wissler, a 24-year-old girl.
"That's what it's all about," said her mom, Kathy.
The Wissler's feel blessed by Bethany and her ability to achieve her goals all with a smile on her face. They know her extra chromosome brought them an extra special girl.
"My mom is my rock star,” said Bethany.
“No, I think you're my rock star," said Kathy Wissler.
This mother-daughter-duo is inseparable now, but initially when Kathy found out her daughter had down syndrome she was scared.
“I think I started crying for months, and months and months,” said Kathy. “I didn’t know that God would have a special girl waiting for me.”
Special is right, Bethany Wissler hasn’t let her diagnosis slow her down. In fact, she’s achieved more than most. She’s been homecoming queen, she’s been to college at the University of Toledo and now has a job at Outback Steakhouse on Monroe Street.
“It’s pretty cool to do those things for me because I like to experience life for myself,” said Bethany.
She’s worked at Outback for about five years and has done it all. Her work family say she’s a great addition to their team. From being a hostess to bussing tables, and preparing silverware Bethany is up for anything.
"I love working here,” said Bethany. “I love all my friends they always help me with everything.“
And customers love Bethany. She’s proof that her diagnosis doesn’t define her. Her mom says daily, Bethany challenges people’s judgments.
”I also watch for their faces when I say my daughter has down syndrome just to see if their reaction is the same as it used to be,” explained Kathy, Bethany’s mom. “You know like, ‘aw I’m sorry.’ And I want to convince them, don’t be sorry I would have her all over again. I wouldn’t change anything.“
Her family is so proud of Bethany and how she passionately pursues everything from dancing, to acting and singing. She has big dreams and a memorable message for everyone on World Down Syndrome Awareness Day: ”I want people to learn from me just to have some courage, integrity and always be there for them when they have any problems, " said Bethany.
She is teaching us all a lesson on how to be a better person.
"You don’t get this kind of love you know every day, it’s unconditional love, " said Kathy Wissler.
Several in our area took time Thursday to celebrate people just like Bethany for World Down Syndrome Awareness Day.
Denny's on Buck Road in Rossford hosted a t-shirt drive and Thriller Ink donated some of their proceeds to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo (DSAGT.)
They (DSAGT) serves 17 counties and the money raised from Thursday’s events will provide scholarships to individuals with down syndrome of all ages for enrichment opportunities like camp or education programs and more.
Leaders say events like this can help create real change and better a community.
You can learn more about the DSAGT, how to get involved, or donate here.