JOSHUA Cussen is the youngest of four boys. At 2 ½ he loves going swimming, visiting the playground and watching Mr Tumble on TV. Doted on by his parents (Triona and Pat) and three brothers Kai, 15, Christopher, 13, and Dylan, 12, he is happy, lovable and fun.
He also has Down syndrome and mother Triona says the support she has received since his birth from the Down Syndrome Centre (DSC) has been invaluable so she is urging women all over the country to come out this Sunday to support the Buy My Dress Campaign which aims to raise awareness about the condition and funds for the charity.
“We didn’t find out that Joshua had Down syndrome (DS) until he was born and to be honest, it took a good while to get our heads around it,” admits the Dublin woman. “I found the whole thing very daunting in the beginning as my only experience of DS was the adults I had occasionally seen walking down the street with elderly parents.
“We didn’t know what Joshua’s potential would be or what help we would get, but everyone has been amazing. The DSC has been there for us from the beginning with advice and support and we have been able to get the therapy he has needed to help him develop.
“Physically he’s a very small little guy and isn’t walking or talking yet.
“But he uses sign language and is a really fast little crawler so we are hopeful that he will get up on his feet and start to babble soon.”
The mother of four is hoping that her youngest son will start play school this year and begin to mix with other children of his own age, but in the meantime is so grateful for the network of friends she has met through the DSC and the support they have given each other.
“I would love for Joshua to be able to start playschool in September because he is 2½ and we should be treating him as his chronological age, even though he looks a year younger,” she says.
“It will be hard in some ways to see him with traditionally developing children as when we are with families who have children with DS, his lack of speech, mobility and height doesn’t seem like such an issue.
“In this regard, meeting other mothers in the same situation has been a lifeline but at the same time, it will do Joshua good to mix with other children of his own age.”
The support the Cussen family has received from the DSC over the past two years has given them the confidence to consider placing their child into mainstream education and helped them to feel positive about his future.
“So much has changed in the last decade and the reality for children with DS is very different today; most will go to mainstream school and when they grow up can live in supported accommodation, have a part-time job and a relationship — it is a much brighter future than it may have been in the past so I feel Joshua is lucky that society has changed for the better in that regard.”
With this in mind, Triona urges all women to either donate a dress or take themselves to their nearest Buy My Dress event and snap up a bargain.
“Buy My Dress is a fantastic fundraiser on every level,” she says. “It is something which appeals to all women — there are some gorgeous dresses for sale at brilliant prices and many have been donated by well-known celebrities like Imelda May.”
Sharon Dagg, CEO of the DSC, says there are approximately 6,000 people living with Down syndrome in Ireland and 1 in every 546 babies in Ireland is born with the condition. But support services have been cut dramatically over the years so events like the BMD campaign are a vital means of raising funds to help provide essential therapy for people with DS and support for their families.
“Started as a fundraising event to suit the economic climate, this is the sixth year of Buy My Dress, supported by Kellogg’s Special K,” she explains. “It attracts women of all ages, shapes and sizes and brings together fashion, style and bargains in one sumptuous, fun- filled event.
Buy My Dress is now held in 7 counties around Ireland which is fantastic. This year there will be an event in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Athlone.
“The aim is to provide a positive, fun-filled day for the ladies of Ireland with opportunities to restock their wardrobe for a fraction of the price, all whilst raising urgent funds needed to open Ireland’s only national centre dedicated to people with Down syndrome.
“This year is really exciting as the new Down Syndrome Centre is expected to be open in summer and so the funds awill go towards providing much-needed services that have been cut dramatically in recent years.
“The centre will house physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy,” SKIP classes (mother and toddler groups run by speech and language therapists), a resource centre, seminars and workshops with opportunities for parents and families to meet each other.
THERE will be dresses of all shapes and sizes and something suit every pocket at the BMD events around the country. Thousands of women have donated something from their wardrobe and some of the more well-known donators include Leigh Arnold Leigh who donates a fabulous gúna every year. She has donated a stunning blue classic Reiss bandage dress (left) which she wore to a film premiere in Dubai.
Lorraine Keane: Not only is this a beautiful Anna Sui dress (left) but it is also a collector’s item as it is from one of her earlier collections. This is a particular favourite of Lorraine’s and is a gorgeous mixture of blues, greens and gold — and it also has pockets. Line up ladies, this dress is a winner.
Caroline Downey: There can’t be a more classic little black dress than the Valentino number Caroline wore to a friend’s wedding and it will be among the first items to go at Buy My Dress.
Storm Desmond: Storm has donated a stunning, and versatile, Eliza and Ethan multi-wrap dress which she wore to Brian O’Driscoll’s testimonial dinner. In stunning jade, it’s a show stopper.
Sile Seoige: Sile has generously donated to Buy My Dress year after year and this year has given a beautiful strapless burgundy ball gown, with a fitted bodice and mermaid flair. The dress will wow at any black tie event.