Michael’s Story

Like many 20-year-olds, Michael is optimistic about his future — and has some definite ideas about what’s next. “I want to be fire chief and have a place of my own so I can invite my friends over,” he says.

Michael has already accomplished many of the goals he’s set for himself: He graduated from Wissahickon High School in Ambler, PA. He’s a junior firefighter at Centre Square Fire Company. He works part-time at Palermo’s Pizza. He has a girlfriend. And he’s looking forward to an upcoming internship at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

“I also play basketball,” says Michael with a grin. “Our team, the Titans, won fourth place in the Special Olympics earlier this month.”

Diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, Michael hasn’t let his condition affect who he is or what he wants to accomplish in life. His parents, Jacqui and Mike, continue to encourage him to learn, grow and pursue things that interest him — like firefighting.

When Michael was 16, he became a junior volunteer firefighter at the station where his father is chief engineer and one of his sisters is a volunteer with the fire police. They all train together and look after each other when fire calls come in.

“I’m training on gear now, but I want to get my Class A uniform soon so I can be in parades,” Michael said. “Someday, I want to be chief so I can try to help people.”

In between his many activities, Michael spends time with his friends. They go out for “wing night” at P.J. Whelihan’s, play videogames and basketball, and enjoy talking about their favorite TV shows like The Flash and Green Arrow.

When asked to describe her brother, 23-year-old Emily says, “He’s a goofball. He’s kind and loving and friendly. He’s also very independent.” Michael interrupts and exaggeratedly points to his now-pumped bicep muscle. Emily laughs and adds, “… and he’s also strong and handsome.”

Michael is a Patient Champion for the 2017 CHOP Buddy Walk, the single largest fundraiser to support research and care for children and adults with trisomy 21 at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.