Socks designed by Beacher Jessica Rotolo help celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

Jessica Rotolo, centre, presents the heart design that inspired her socks used to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day to Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and Beaches-East York MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

Beacher Jessica Rotolo made an outstanding contribution to World Down Syndrome Day celebrations for 2023.

The 24-year-old local resident was the designer of the socks worn to observe the day all around the world.

To celebrate both her winning design for the Lots of Socks Campaign and World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, a gathering was held at Rotolo’s former school in Toronto.

Along with the Rotolo family, those attending the celebration at Heydon Park Secondary School in the Dundas Street West and Beverley Street area were Beaches-East York MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon and Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.

There’s a reason World Down Syndrome Day is observed on March 21. The calendar reference 3/21 coincides with the fact that having three (a trisomy) of the 21st chromosome is the cause of Down syndrome. Under a microscope, chromosomes also look somewhat like socks which is why they are used to symbolize World Down Syndrome Day.

The pairs of socks designed by Rotolo have colourful designs on them, and one is blue and the other is yellow. This may make it appear that a person wearing World Down Syndrome Day socks has a mismatched pair on their feet, but that is exactly the point.

Rotolo’s design was based on a heart that she had painted featuring a variety of colours, each one having a special meaning.

“The heart I painted has all the colours of the world,” she explained at the Heydon Park celebration.

“The painting was my inspiration, and the colours represent so many different backgrounds and skin colours… The red is for love and emotion, the gold is for making new friends and keeping old ones.”

Speaking at the event, McMahon said she was honoured to be invited to the celebration.

“There’s so much energy, excitement and colour here. Thank you Jessica and everyone here at the school for all you do. I will be showing off my socks today for sure.”

Erskine-Smith said he was proud to have Rotolo as one his constituents.

“I’m happy she is a constituent of mine in Beaches-East York, and I’m also happy to see she’s a Blue Jays fan…Her art is one example of her many accomplishments as is her public advocacy for those with Down syndrome.”

Marlise Puniska and Noemie D’Aigle Edwards perform a dance to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) at Heydon Park Secondary School. Photo by Alan Shackleton.
Participants at the Heydon Park Secondary School celebration on March 21 cheer the proclamation of WDSD. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

Others attending the World Down Syndrome Day celebration were Laura LaChance, executive director of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society; Nancy Howson, an advocate for the Down syndrome community; Heydon Park teachers Veronika Belova and Eity Khaper; Heydon Park principal Debra Muchnik, and Rotolo’s parents Dorlean and Joe.

Video addresses were also sent to the event by Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark.

Heydon Park students who took part in the celebration included Marliese Puniska, Noemie D’Aigle and Sophia Rehou.

The theme of the March 21 celebration was With Us Not For Us, which is a reminder that support for people with Down syndrome means listening to them, letting them live their own lives and make their own decisions.

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls for everyone to have the freedom to make their own choices,” said the World Down Syndrome Day website. “But people with Down syndrome often have poor or controlling support. Often their supporters do things For them, not With them.”

For more information on World Down Syndrome Day, please visit https://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org/


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