Meet LiveUp Philly Program Director Rachael Durkin!

Rachael photo

Rachael (right) with Katie Alger and Cristin Durkin

There are an infinite number of reasons why LiveUp Programs are so special….the breakdance competitions at the dinner/dance in and of themselves are epic enough to make you understand.  We’ll start with one for now…

Growing up with a sibling with Down Syndrome is an interesting experience to say the least.  Being the younger sibling crafts an even more unique relationship.  I was born with my sister, Cristin, always having Down Syndrome.  That is all I ever knew.  However, I did not even understand what Down Syndrome was or how it made her different until I was much older.  For me, Cristin and I were the same (well, she was kind of the boss).  She was my best friend.  We built forts, dressed up in absurd ensembles (sequins, beads and feathers were often involved), tag-teamed making fun of our dad, and quoted The Little Rascals for hours on end.  This mindset did not always work in her favor.  I feel that sometimes when a family gets past the initial shock of having a child born with Down Syndrome and later discovers what a joy it is to have them in their lives, they cherish that person to an unfathomable degree.  Cristin has always just been Cristin to me.  Hence, when she asks me to get up and get her a napkin when we’re sitting at the dinner table, my response is typically, “You have legs.”  For me, Cristin is just like everyone else and that’s exactly how I have always treated her.  Her disability does not define her; rather, it is a small piece of who she is and how she acts at times. 

This is why the LiveUp philosophy and staff/participant dynamic is so special.  LiveUp radiates this laid back vibe of just a bunch of friends hanging out, exploring a new city and enjoying each other’s company.  LiveUp unintentionally creates a backdrop of equality and friendship where differences disappear and the gap between those with Down Syndrome and those without ultimately becomes non-existent.  In the end, isn’t that what we strive for the most for our loved ones with Down Syndrome- for them to live in a world of acceptance free from judgment and discrimination?  A world with a refreshed focus on how they are capable and just like everyone else rather how they are different?  LiveUp gives me a glimpse into what that world would be like and gives me hope that this world is possible.

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