In July, Athens County residents Gena Hendrickson and Erica Williams, in coordination with the Down syndrome Association of Central Ohio, created a local MOMS Offering Moms Support, or M.O.M.S., a support group for mothers of children who have Down Syndrome.
Hendrickson and Williams created the group to serve as a local extension of M.O.M.S. and to help other mothers like themselves connect. The two met through the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio, or DSACO, Williams said.
DSACO is an organization that aims to support and provide resources for those who have loved ones with Down Syndrome, Carey Eash, the DSACO vice president, said.
Currently, DSACO serves about 1,200 families within 23 counties, Eash said. M.O.M.S. groups became a part of the organization about six years ago. The groups provide a place for mothers of children who have Down syndrome to share their experiences.
After Hendrickson joined the larger group, the organization asked Williams if it could share her information with Hendrickson because they lived near each other. From there, the two became friends and each other’s supporters. It was a need for others with shared experiences that inspired them to start the local group.
DSACO often holds events in Columbus, Williams said. Although the events are appreciated, it’s not always possible for moms in the area to attend due to distance and timing.
“We were looking for other opportunities to meet with other moms and other families who have loved ones with Down syndrome. All the resource groups offered by DSACO were just a little bit too far away and just didn't really work with our work schedule,” Williams said. “We got to talking and said, ‘Wouldn't it be great if we could meet some other families in our area?’”
The two then reached out to a DSACO coordinator to facilitate the creation of a M.O.M.S. group closer to home.
After speaking with the coordinator, Hendrickson and Williams reached out to other moms they knew in the area to gauge interest, Williams said. Overall, the response they received was favorable, prompting them to move forward with the group’s creation.
Meetings currently take place in Athens at Larry’s Dawg House, located at 410 W. Union St., and consist mainly of discussions. The meetings are scheduled quarterly, based on the availability of current attendees, Williams said.
Williams said the meetings begin with highlighting upcoming DSACO events and then the group settles into talking about members’ recent struggles, successes and advice.
Currently, there are no specific activities planned for the meetings, and they are open to suggestions, Williams said. Because the group is relatively new, they are continuously working to find a rhythm.
“At this point of our adventure with this resource group, our main goal is just really trying to get the word out and attract more moms to join our group. We're new and we're hoping to grow and meet new people and hopefully, we can get more new faces,” Williams said.
The group currently consists of 3-4 regular members, including Williams and Hendrickson.
Eash, Williams and Hendrickson all emphasized the necessity of connecting with others who understand the realities of having a child with Down syndrome.
“It's very important to try to connect with other families, especially in our area, where we're so far apart from each other. It's easy to get detached from reality,” Hedrickson said. “We're so far from everybody else, especially from Columbus. This will help us get connected with moms in our local area.”
The group’s next meeting will be held May 20, at 1 p.m. at Larry’s Dawg House, Williams said in an email.