Maggie McKelvey

Adversity: Mother of a child with Down syndrome

Advocacy: Works to raise awareness and funding for Down syndrome research.

“If you don’t advocate for your children who will? You are their No. 1 supporter from the moment they are born. If you want something to happen, make it happen.”

For Maggie McKelvey, the moment her daughter, Ava, was born was both heartwarming and heart wrenching. The young mother, also a nurse, was told her baby had Down syndrome and fear instantly set in. But a chance encounter between Maggie and a woman in a grocery store who had a teenage daughter with Down syndrome lifted a weight from Maggie’s shoulders. “You have been tremendously blessed; everything will be OK, you’ll see,” the woman told her. From that point forward, Maggie has pushed her fears aside and lives happily with her energetic daughter.

In an effort to raise awareness and funds to help with Down syndrome research, Maggie has participated in buddy walks and hosted a 5K race, aptly named Ava’s 5k for Down Syndrome, with proceeds going to the National Down Syndrome Society and F.R.I.E.N.D.S., a Down syndrome advocacy group in Frederick County, Maryland. Her work also focuses on assuring those with Down syndrome are included within their communities. Today, even Ava is lending help to the cause. In 2013, she was the poster child for Down Syndrome Awareness Month and her photo was featured in Times Square. “The whole reason I decided to turn adversity into advocacy was for Ava. When she was born, there was so much fear of the unknown. But one thing was clear, I would give her every opportunity to have the best life possible. I think everything fell in to place from there.”

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