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Downside Up

A Family for Families of Children with Disabilities

Downside Up is a family for families who have children with disabilities. We provide inclusive opportunities, strengthen community, and raise awareness for all abilities, all ages, and the whole family. 

We started with our Camp Wakawalu family camp weekends and grew into a learning center. We are excited about some of our newest programs–preschool mornings, middle school Boost weekends, and our sensory community garden! Downside Up is always growing and adapting to what is needed by our community.

When my son was born with Down syndrome, I was so scared of what the future would hold for him and how to navigate it all in the best possible way. My husband and I began connecting with other families on the same journey and realized we were definitely not alone. Downside Up was born out of the desire to create more connections for parents and caretakers and to develop more opportunities for my son and others like him. 

When you have a child, it is natural to begin thinking of ways you can make the world a better place for them to grow up and to have the best future they can. When you have a child with a disability, the list increases and the worries are compounded. What does this diagnosis have in store for my baby? Will my child ever walk or talk? Will potty training ever end? What if I die and there is no one to take care of my child? A multitude of questions keep us up at night. 

The list is unique to each family and the severity of the disability, but we all want our children to live the best life possible for as long as possible and for the world to see them for more than just their disability. The families we serve are amazing, but many (mine included) are like ducks–trying to stay afloat, making it seem like the swim is effortless, but just below the surface is a frenzy of frantic movement. They are going through a lot more than most realize, so being heard and seen is super important for the parent as well as the child. Every time I meet a parent who says (usually through tears), "I have been looking for a place like this." or "I'm so glad we finally found you guys.", I know we are doing something that makes an important and positive difference.  

There are a multitude of ways to be a part of our mission at Downside Up and help us continue to serve more families in the Chattanooga area. We are grateful for the love and support of our city that has nurtured us to where we are today, but we are growing and value your continued generosity. We have sponsorship opportunity levels throughout the year for our annual events: Charity Golf Open, Breathe/Moms' Retreat, Witches & Wine, Rudolph Run/5K, Art/Craft Auction, and Camp Wakawalu family weekend. 

We are an inclusive environment, so we encourage all families to participate in our programs. We are one of the few places that serve the child with a disability as well as the typically developing sibling(s) at our camps and classes. We have events for all age groups and all abilities. We give first priority registration and discounts to our members (anyone can become a member), but you do not have to be a member to join us. Please share our info with any family you feel needs to connect with a community of people who understand exactly where they are.

Our values say a lot about our day to day and how we develop our programs. We definitely care about the child with a disability, but we also support the typically developing siblings and the needs of the caretaker. We try to make everything we do as fun as possible while understanding that life is completely unpredictable with ups and downs. We hope to be there for all of it!! 

We are always looking for volunteers, teachers, and interns for our day camps, retreats, preschool programs, and annual events. Our website and social media sites always have news on our upcoming events, sponsorship opportunities, and volunteer options, but becoming a member or subscribing to our newsletter would get the information directly to your inbox.

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