Tonight I met two amazing people.  Two people who are friends.  These two young adults are beautiful in their own way but together they are superstars.  My goal this summer was to profile friends who are friends despite of any deferences that either person has because “Kids are Kids”!  These two are the definition of a beautiful friendship that is there because they want it to be.  I am SO excited to share with you Jack and Mollie!

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Jack and Mollie have been friends since high school and even though Mollie now attends ISU they have maintained their friendship and see each other when she is in town.  As I share these kids I want these stories to open conversations for all of us.  I want Moms to talk to other Moms and I want kids to find comfort in knowing that all people want the same thing.  They want and need friends.  It is our job as the parents of all children to be open and to foster independence as well as acceptance in our children so that our world can be a better place.  I am tired of the lines in the sand and divisions made by not only children but our community.  Jack and Mollie defeat the odds and are a wonderful representation of what can be if we all just open our hearts and minds.

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I met up with Jack and Mollie at a local park where they are training for the Ups For Downs Mini Marathon this summer!

Mollie’s Words

The friendship I have with Jack is the most beautiful, fulfilling, heart-warming thing in the entire world. His friendship means the absolute world to me. Jack is the most kind, caring and funny person I know and I am forever grateful for everything he has taught me. He is the first person to ask me if I’m okay and the last person to judge me. He has an outlook on life that I can only hope more people begin to have. He has a heart of gold, for those he is close with and the strangers he passes on a daily basis. He constantly challenges me to be good to people and reminds me not to care what others think of me. I have learned more from my friendship with Jack in the last six years than I have in my 21 years of life. I am incredibly blessed!

Jack is the type of friend I can call up last minute on a Friday night to come over and make homemade pizzas with me. 

Jack is the type of friend that greets me with a running bear hug every time I see him, even if I was with him 24 hours before. (Sometimes others friendly remind him “Jack, you just saw her YESTERDAY!”)

Jack is the type of friend that will Skype me on a Saturday night while I’m away at school to fill me in on his play rehearsals, work and school happenings.

Jack is the type of friend that, when it’s your twenty-first birthday, he will show up at your college apartment doorstep two hours away, with a bouquet of flowers.

Jack is the type of friend who consistently reminds me how much a hug or a smile can turn someone’s day around.

But most importantly, Jack is the type of friend who truly reminds me how beautiful friendships can be, regardless of the differing abilities.

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Jack’s Words

1/ How did you meet Mollie?
I met Mollie at Sandburg High School.  She was in my gym class.

2/ How did you and Mollie become friends?
I got an iphone for graduation so we could facebook and text.  I love Facebook.  Mollie’s family is cool even though they are Sox fans.  The Cubs are mine.  the Packers too.  boo Bears.  Mollie’s dad is a troublemaker.  His name is David.  Her brother is Rob. Maggie and Jackie are her sisters. She has lots of cousins.  Kathie is mom.  Richard Marks is Grandpa.  Linda Marks is Grandma. I like Richard.

3/  What is your favorite thing about Mollie?
She is friendly and nice.  We do things together that are fun for people our age.  Mollie knows I am a man, not a baby.

4/ Do you think Mollie has made you a better person?
no.  I am just me.  we have fun.  Mollie knows that I am funny and smart and she helps other people see me that way too.

5/  What would you like to tell us about your friendship with Mollie?
We are friends always.  Her whole family is my friend.  I went with her family to ISU to surprise her for her 21st birthday.  I was her surprise.  It was so fun.  When I am 21 in August, we are going to have a beer at a bar.  And then I am going to Vegas.

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The words of Jack’s Mom


Jack’s friendship with Mollie (and other typical peers) has developed in ways that most of our kids develop friendships:  mutual interest and genuinely caring about one another.  It is imperative that our kids be a part of the community in which they live.  That is where friendships can grow.
There is a phrase that I heard a long time ago:  the dignity of risk.  There is a lot of dignity in being allowed the opportunity to fail miserably or succeed unabashedly.  We’ve had both.  
I needed to be able to accept some level of risk and let him be his own man.  When he was in 8th grade and the class went on a trip to Washington, D.C.  He went.  Without me.  He stayed in a hotel room.  With other adolescent boys.  OMG.  Did ANY of them shower and brush their teeth every day?  Did they sleep in their clothes?  Don’t know.  Don’t care.  He had an amazing time.
Something that I see today, that I may not have been able to envision when Jack was young is that I need to get out of his way.  Too often, parents presume that others won’t want to befriend their son or daughter with Down syndrome or that the friendship will be one borne of benevolence and do-gooder priorities, e.g. how will I look if I do this or how nice of me to be kind to those who are less fortunate.  
That could not be farther from the reality of Jack’s life.  He has friends who are his alone. 
I hear parents say “Oh, my son can’t…”  “My daughter would never…”  Parents.  Stop being the experts in I CAN’T!
If you meet someone who seems to click with your son or daughter or who seems to have a connection, gift, willingness or nature that fits your vision of who they hang out with, facilitate the friendship.  Invite them to do things with your family if they are a younger age.  Be open to letting go and letting them do things with their same age peers in high school.  Encourage them to do things that young men and women do when they are young adults.  Young adults don’t do everything with their parents.  
Jack and Mollie have a true friendship.  Not one made up out of obligation, service hours, volunteerism.  It is something that developed on its own.  He has become an integral part of her family because he is an important part of her.
Some day, I hope that all people who experience life a little differently have an expectation and the experience of friends like Mollie.
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The Words of Mollie’s Mom

Mollie and Jack have a special bond.  They have been great friends from the minute they met about 6 years ago.  

Mollie loves to spend time with Jack.  They genuinely have fun together.  He is willing to do anything or go anywhere.  When she calls him he is ready to go.  One of the neatest things to see is when Mollie comes home from college and Jack sees her for the first time in awhile.  He is so sincerely happy to see her it could melt your heart.  When Mollie isn’t with Jack she talks about him all the time.  She is always telling funny Jack stories.  Mollie loves to brag about Jack and all he can do, how friendly he is, how compassionate he is, how smart he is.  When she is away at school they really do miss one another.

Mollie loves to introduce Jack to her friends, which quickly, without hesitation from anyone, become Jack’s friends. Mollie loves to include Jack with her friends.  I don’t believe she has ever had a thought that maybe her friends would be uncomfortable.  He is just one of the gang.  Mollie has never said that there is a place she can’t take Jack.  She is always proud to be with him and I believe her friends are too.

Mollie also LOVES to include Jack with her extended family.  Mollie has introduced Jack to many members of her family, from her almost 80 year old Grandpa to one of her youngest cousins.  Jack has brought so much laughter to many family events.  My Dad, Grandpa Rich, grew up with neighbors that had cognitive disabilities and he had a certain impression of how these kids were.  The first time he met Jack any of the negative thoughts he may have had from so long ago were gone.  He and Jack carried on like life long friends.  They laughed and joked and had a great time.  When Mollie and Jack are together, she makes sure Jack calls Richard.  Grandpa Rich always asks about Jack.  

One of the highlights of our outings with Jack was Mollie’s 21st birthday.  She likes to surprise Jack when she comes home so we decided to turn the tables on her.  We took Jack, along with some family members and a couple of her friends, down to ISU for dinner on her birthday.  We all walked into her apartment, sat down and started to talk.  A few minutes later, right on cue, Jack knocked on the door, with flowers in hand, and said surprise!!  Mollie was shaking and crying and hugging him.  It really was a special sight and he was so proud of himself.

I believe Mollie and Jack will be life long friends. She doesn’t go out with him because she has to, she goes because she likes to spend time with him.  She accepts him for who he is, but he also accepts her for who she is.  He is respectful of her.  He treats her like all friends deserve to be treated. I believe she does the same for him.

I hope Mollie and Jack have been able to open the minds of others to be accepting of the possibility of all kinds of friendships.  

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Thank you Jack and Mollie for not only sharing yourselves with me but for sharing your families as well.  Sometimes feelings are not easy to communicate and you all did beautifully.  You all are an inspiration to me.  I hope to raise amazing children who see people as people and have open hearts to whom ever crosses their path each day.

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Best part is they are coming to visit!  To meet my family!  I can’t wait!