New Gila Valley Down syndrome chapter to hold first activity

Contributed Photo/ Courtesy Hannah Keir: Gila Valley resident, Zackery Keir, will be one of the children to attend the new Down syndrome chapter.

SAFFORD – Being a parent can be hard enough; being a parent to a special needs child can make parenthood that much more challenging. A Gila Valley woman aims to assist parents of children with Down syndrome with support and resources through a new local chapter of the Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona organization.

Roxanne Benson has three children.  Her eldest son, Joshua, has Down syndrome. While living in the Phoenix Valley, Benson and her husband were a part of the Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona organization.

“I was very impressed that the founder, Gina Johnson, visits every hospital in the Phoenix Valley, personally delivering a new parent package to parents who have a baby born with Down syndrome,” Benson said. “When my husband had a coworker who had a baby born with Down syndrome, I knew I wanted to do that for parents here.”

The first Gila Valley chapter activity will be at the Safford Pool on Aug. 11. The pool will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. free of charge for all Down syndrome individuals and their families. To attend the first activity, Benson asks those interested e-mail her at to register. She also requests everyone attending the activity bring a treat to share with the group.

Benson’s intention is to eventually deliver all the programs of the Sharing Down Syndrome organization to the Gila Valley. For now, she hopes to have a quarterly activity and take packages to new parents of Down syndrome children.

“I, like Gina, want to share the joy of having a child with Down Syndrome, as well as help provide resources and support for the challenges,” Benson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies born with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is trisomy. About 95 percent of people with Down syndrome have Trisomy 21, in which each cell has a third copy of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two copies.

Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic birth defects, effecting one out of every 691 babies born in the United States. It has a wide range of developmental delays, including physical disabilities. Medical complications in babies born with Down syndrome can include open heart surgery, intestinal blockages, hearing and vision impairment and intestinal blockages. Approximately 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome in the United States yearly.

The Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona organization was founded in 1991 by Gina Johnson. It was created to give hope to the individuals who have Down syndrome so that they could grow become independent. Promoting self-acceptance, and inclusion, they celebrate each life. Today, the organization has grown to include more than 3,000 families.

For more information about the new Gila Valley charter contact Roxanne Benson by email at

For more information about the Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona organization visit

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