This photo of two Arlington teens with Down syndrome will appear on JumboTron screens in Times Square this weekend as part of a visibility campaign for people with the genetic condition.
It depicts Connor Garwood, 18, and his girlfriend Sarah Buzby, 16, at a virtual prom held in the Garwood’s workout room last May. The two met in preschool at Ashlawn Elementary School and have been “inseparable” ever since, said Connor’s mom Suzanne.
She said she submitted the photo of Connor, wearing his dad’s tuxedo and embracing Sarah, because it was sweet.
“Yeah, that picture is cute,” Connor said. “She kissed me.”
The photo, selected from more than 2,100 entries, will be one of 500 in the hour-long presentation this Saturday (Sept. 18).
“Connor and Sarah’s photo will be shown on two JumboTron screens in the heart of Times Square, thanks to the support of ClearChannel Outdoor,” a National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) press release says.
The video will kick off the Buddy Walk in New York City, hosted by the NDSS, which raises awareness about the disability. The video will also be live-streamed on the society’s Facebook page from 9:30-10:30 a.m. the same day.
“These collective images promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome in a very visible way,” said the press release.
The couple’s prom was hosted by Best Buddies, a national organization that matches kids and adults with disabilities with high school and college students without disabilities. The pandemic-era dance gave Connor, now a Yorktown High School graduate, and Buzby, a senior at Washington-Liberty High School, a chance to see each other during the lockdown.
“It was fun. We danced,” said Connor, who then showed off some of his signature moves.
For Connor, being on the Jumbotron means demonstrating that he is a capable adult. This year, he started the Program for Employment Preparedness at Arlington Career Center, which partners with employers and worksites to transition adults with differing abilities to life after school.
“I want people to know that I know stuff,” he said.
Suzanne said the program teaches him “how to ride the ART bus and the Metro and cook and balance a checkbook, which frankly more colleges ought to teach.”
The video and walk also preview Down syndrome Awareness Month in October, a month that Suzanne uses to highlight the challenges of living with or caring for someone with Down syndrome.
“I try to post things… that, if people knew, they could help with advocacy and make changes to the law that would make life easier for our kids,” Suzanne said.
She is watching some bills in Congress right now that could make it possible for people like Connor to earn more than a sub-minimum wage. Additionally, caps on income and assets for those with Down syndrome to access federal programs like Medicaid may disincentivize seeking higher-paying employment, she said.
October is also a time to humanize people with the condition.
“People think people with Down syndrome have X and Y characteristics and I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” she said.
Connor is a social media maven who enjoys exercising, especially kickboxing, saying he could protect Sarah in an altercation with his skills. But in a fight, Sarah would likely utilize her charm and humor.
“She’s cute, kind and funny and she makes jokes and dances with her dolls,” said Connor.
Car Crashes Into Construction Equipment — A vehicle crashed into some parked construction equipment in Courthouse during the evening rush hour yesterday. The crash happened on Wilson Blvd, just down the hill from the Wendy’s. Wilson Blvd was closed for a short period of time as a result. [Twitter]
Five Achieve Eagle Scout Status — Five members of the local Boy Scout Troup 106 achieved Eagle Scout status during a recent ceremony in north Arlington. [InsideNoVa]
Happy Hour for a Good Cause Thursday — Guarapo in Courthouse (2039 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a happy hour to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Thursday. [Clarendon Nights]
Group Seeks Prom Dress Donations — The annual “Formals for Five” initiative is seeking donations of dresses, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The donated items will then be sold for $5 apiece to students at Washington-Lee and Wakefield high schools. [InsideNoVa]
Prom is supposed to be the night of a teen girl’s dreams, but the high cost of dresses prevents some from attending the event. The Washington-Lee High School PTA is holding a drive to make sure every girl can afford to attend prom.
The “Formals for Five” event collects new and gently used dresses, jewelry and other prom accessories that will be sold for $5 to Arlington high school students. Proceeds go to the Washington-Lee PTA.
Donations can be made until April 20, and the sale takes place from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School on April 23 and 24.
Drop off bins are located at the following Arlington locations:
- 430 N. Kenmore Street
- 3806 S. 16th Street
- 5850 N. 26th Street
- 1101 S. Quinn Street
- 346 N. Kensington Street
- 3510 N. Pershing Drive
- Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) Main Office
Organizers are also seeking sponsors for the event. Sponsorship helps with the purchase of clothing racks, donation bins and refreshments at the event. To become a sponsor or to volunteer for either day of the event, email [email protected].
Wakefield High School held its annual Prom Promise anti-drunk-driving event today, but it was a bit different than years past.
Instead of a large indoor assembly with PowerPoint slides, a speaker and staged demonstrations, the police department decided to take things outside. Groups of students lined up to try their hand at driving golf carts around a cone course while wearing “drunk goggles.”
“This year I wanted to do something that’s more interactive, where all the kids get to participate,” said Cpl. Kyle Anderson, who helped to organize the event.
With the goggles simulating the distorted sense of reality and slowed reaction time of 3-5 drinks, students invariably found themselves driving slower than usual and, often, veering well off-course.
“It’s not to train them how to drive drunk,” Anderson said. “It’s to give them an idea just how bad they drive when they have a drink.”
Anderson said prom promise is held this time of year because teens are “statistically more likely to get into DUI situation” around prom and graduation season. Golf carts for the simulation were donated by Army Navy Country Club.