CLEVELAND — The Olympics are underway, and all this week Austin Love and myself will be competing in a winter games showdown to raise money for charity.
I love the thrill of competition, but that isn’t the only thing that has drawn me to sports. It’s also about the perseverance of athletes, the teamwork on display and the spirit of the fans.
Perseverance, teamwork and spirit are all words I would use to describe my nephew, Garrett, who has Down syndrome.
He’s the reason I’m competing to raise money for GiGi’s Playhouse.
“He just has a twinkle about him, so I just think people naturally do gravitate toward him," said Mikah Konst, my sister-in-law.
Garrett is the oldest of three children and like any other 8-year-old kid he loves to eat pizza and play. He loves to hug people and give high-fives.
Their family message is "we're more alike than different." Even Garrett's little sister, Grady, is sharing it.
“He is like us, he likes the same things we do…" Konst said.
Garrett loves to visit GiGi's Playhouse in his hometown of Indianapolis, it's one of 55 locations -- including here in Cleveland. Their vision is to see a world where all are accepted and embraced.
“Their message on inclusion is exactly what Mikah and I believe. It’s one of the best rooms to see Garrett in because everyone who’s there deeply believes in their mission," said Adam Konst, Garrett's dad.
Lizz Maxwell has been the site director at GiGi's in Cleveland since it opened in 2016.
“Our goal inside the Playhouse is to support families to offer resources to offer programs -- whether it’s therapeutic, educational or career development -- but in addition to that we want to be out in the community, we want the outreach to be far and wide to break down those barriers, we want to change the way the world views our friends with Down syndrome”
Down syndrome is the largest chromosomal disability in our country, but it’s among the least-funded.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated article on Jan. 26, 2022.