Three Cheers for Gregory!
Every October, 4-year-old Gregory looks forward to a special day with his favorite people, doing his favorite things. It’s not his birthday, it’s the CHOP Buddy Walk!®
This year will be extra special, says him mom Jenny, because he’s a CHOP Buddy Walk® champion, a patient in CHOP’s Trisomy 21 Program chosen to represent thousands of other kids with Down syndrome (trisomy 21) like him.
“This is a day for us to celebrate Gregory and all of his peers and how wonderful they are,” Jenny says. “We have an amazing support network, so it’s also a time for all of us to get together and celebrate our community, too.”
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Gregory, 4, loves seeing his grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friends at the event, playing in the bounce house and on the obstacle course, and meeting characters like the Phillie Phanatic. He also loves to dance to the songs played by the DJ. Current favorites he’s likely to request at this year’s event include the “Cha-Cha Slide,” “Shallow” from A Star is Born, the Billy Ray Cyrus remix “Old Town Road,” and the rap song “Rolex.”
“There’s just so much to see and do at Buddy Walk,” says Jenny. “Last year, we were one of the last families to leave. We took it all in.”
Gregory was a month old when he was diagnosed with Down syndrome at CHOP. About 50 percent of kids with the condition have a heart defect, but Gregory does not. Jenny and husband Michael feel fortunate that Gregory is generally very healthy – and enjoys keeping up with his active older brothers, Michael, 8, and Benedict, 6.
The family participates in a variety of sports including swimming and baseball. Gregory loves cheering for his brothers while they compete. And Michael Jr. and Benedict can’t wait to cheer for Gregory when he joins Special Olympics next year, Jenny says.
“Gregory is super excited about that,” says Jenny.
Since Gregory’s diagnosis, an interdisciplinary team of specialists at CHOP — including occupational therapists, speech therapists, audiologists, and ear, nose and throat physicians — have been instrumental in educating his family about his condition and providing care and services that help maximize his potential.
“The biggest thing that CHOP has done for us is to teach us to be patient, encouraging and inclusive of Gregory in everything we do, just like we are with his brothers,” Jenny says. “He can do all of the things anyone else can do, just at his own pace.”
Many times, Gregory surprised his family with what he knows. For example, the first thing Gregory ever said in public was the Eagles fight song.
Now 4 years old, Gregory speaks in two- or three-word sentences and is working on improving his communication. He also does therapeutic horseback riding as part of his physical therapy to help him develop greater muscle strength.
The early intervention is improving Gregory’s skills and his family celebrates each milestone on his path. A recent accomplishment: Gregory can now jump in the air while on the trampoline – a feat he couldn’t master just months ago.
“He works incredibly hard,” says his mom. “He’s doing such a good job.”
Other than sports and music, his favorite activity is group hugs.
“He knows when you need a little love,” Jenny says. “He is such a joy. He makes us laugh every day and is constantly amazing us with all he is learning.”