Twelve-year-old Kara sees endless possibilities for her future. For her career, she can see herself as an actress or singer, hair designer or chef, and maybe eventually a director. And, she has personal goals as well: to be a wife, and maybe a mom.
Kara will be entering the seventh grade at Drexel Hill Middle School in Upper Darby, PA. While she’s a typical preteen in some ways — she loves pizza, hanging out with friends and is a bit boy-crazy — she’s also a trailblazer.
“She’s the first child with Down syndrome to be mainstreamed in Upper Darby School District,” Kara’s mom, Kathleen, says proudly. Kara’s parents were encouraged to enroll her in life-skills classes, but they knew their daughter’s capabilities. They believe she can achieve her goals of going to college, getting a job and being self-sufficient.
“She takes a little longer to process things — she’s a visual learner — but she can do anything she sets her mind to,” says Kara’s dad, Cholly.
At school, Kara has a personal care assistant accompany her through the school day. While the aide helps redirect Kara as needed, Kara completes the same schoolwork as her peers. She enjoys learning and has earned good grades.
“Kara is full of life,” Kathleen says. “She’s very dramatic and loves to be the center of attention, but she is also very caring and sensitive.”
Kathleen recalls a time in church when Kara saw a young girl who was bald. Curious, Kara asked the girl’s mom why she didn’t have any hair. The mother explained her daughter had cancer and sometimes treatment makes kids lose their hair.
Without skipping a beat, Kara told the girl’s mother, “She can have some of my hair.” And Kara followed through, asking her mom to make the appointment so she could donate more than 10 inches of her long, brown hair to help make wigs for kids with cancer.
“I wanted to help that little girl,” Kara says. “It was just something I could do, so I did it.”
This year, Kara and her family are doing something else to help others: They’ve formed “Team Kara” and are recruiting friends and family to participate in the 2017 CHOP Buddy Walk. Kara is a Patient Champion for the 15th annual event supporting research and care for children and adults with trisomy 21 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.