Our History

Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota A Brief History


A small group of parents began to organize out of Fraser School in Richfield.


The first issue of our newsletter, Special Times, was published.


Twin Cities Down Syndrome Association, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization was incorporated.


With the help of Children’s Health Care – Minneapolis, we were able to develop and send our Down Comforter new parent information packets to all hospitals in Minnesota. In December, we obtained office space in Plymouth, hired our first staff member and put in an 800 phone number for Greater Minnesota.


Down Comforter information packet for expectant parents was developed and distributed. In April we held our 3rd Regional Conference.


We hired our second part-time staff in January. The state legislature passed a bill appropriating funds for us to produce and distribute our Down Comforter expectant parent packet to medical professionals throughout Minnesota, as well as to families who call our office.


Our 4th Regional Conference in April was held concurrently with our 1st Annual Youth and Adult Conference for people with Down syndrome. In October we held our 1st Annual Buddy Walk at Como Park.


We held our 2nd Annual Youth & Adult Conference in April. We hired our third part-time staff member in July. In October we held our 2nd Annual Buddy Walk. Focus groups were held with youth and adults with Down syndrome to develop programs. A journalism workshop was also held in December for self advocates.


In March our Association found larger and more centrally located offices at 668 Transfer Rd. in St. Paul. Our 5th Regional Conference, held in April, drew close to 200 participants. Our 3rd Annual Youth & Adult Conference was held. The first issue of Voices & Choices a newsletter written by and for members of the Association with Down syndrome was published. Close to 700 folks attended our 3rd Annual Buddy Walk.


Our 4th Annual Youth and Adult Conference was held in April. A one-time Art Auction and our first Bowl-A-Thon were held in May. Our Buddy Walk attracted over 1200 participants. At year’s end we had sixteen Parent Groups, a newsletter circulation of 1100 and 824 member families.


We had record attendance of 325 people at the 6th Regional Conference in April. The 4th Annual Youth and Adult Conference was held in February. The Educator Resource Packet was produced and exhibited. Membership grew to 950 member families, representing over 3,000 individuals, and three new parents groups were formed. The 5th Annual Buddy Walk had 1500 participants (over 2,000 registered), and we held the first Greater Minnesota Buddy Walk in Duluth, with 500 people attending.


The 6th Annual Buddy Walk in Saint Paul drew 2100 participants and more than 700 people came to the 2nd Annual Duluth Walk. The Association obtained its own domain name, www.dsamn.org. We hired a fourth staff person to be our Administrative Assistant. At the end of 2003 we had 18 Parent Groups throughout the state and our membership was at 1054 member families.


The biggest news for 2004 was the National Down Syndrome Congress holding their national conference in Minneapolis. It was held at the Hyatt-Regency on August 20 – 22. Our Association celebrated its 20th anniversary. Our Youth & Adult conference was held for the 7th year and had 53 self-advocates in attendance. We employed our first intern for the summer. Duluth had 1000 participants at their 3rd Annual Buddy Walk. In Saint Paul at the 7th Annual Walk there were over 2700 in attendance. At the end of 2004 there were 20 Parent Groups and our membership was at 1162 member families.


In 2005 the Association held its 2nd annual Grandparent conference. Youth & Adult Conference celebrated its 8th year with 49 self-advocates. The Association held its 8th Annual St. Paul Buddy Walk, with 4,000 walkers and its 4th year of the Duluth Buddy Walk, with 1,200 walkers. Two new staff members were hired, a Program Coordinator and an Office Assistant. By the end of the year there were 22 parent groups. Membership continued to grow.


The Association held three conferences in April of 2006; the 7th Regional Conference attended by 350, the 9th Youth & Adult Conference 51 attendees, and the 3rd Grandparent Conference. All three  were held at the Continuing Education and Conference Center at the University of Minnesota. An Art Gala was held the night before the Regional Conference raised over $5,000. General meeting on DS and Autism was held in February. The Association hired an Event Coordinator. In March of 2006 the office was moved down the hall to a bigger space at 656 Transfer Rd. The Association’s longtime Resource Coordinator retired. The 9th Annual St. Paul Buddy Walk was attended by 4,600 walkers and raised over $180,000. The 5th Annual Duluth Buddy Walk attended by 1,100 walkers. The Association started a new program, the Adult Service Project, which wrapped up at the St. Paul Buddy Walk, collecting canned goods for local organizations. By the end of the year there were 23 parent groups.


The Association held the 10th Youth & Adult Conference with 53 attending and the 4th Grandparent Conference. A new Office Assistant was hired as a permanent employee. The 1st Annual Joey Hebert Classic golf tournament was held in August, netting over $50,000. The 10th Annual St. Paul Buddy Walk was attended by over 5,000 walkers and raised over $200,000. The 6th Annual Duluth Buddy Walk was attended by over 1,200 walkers.


In March of 2008, the Association launched the pilot for its Health Care Management Program. In the spring, the Association held the 11th Youth & Adult Conference with 55 attending, the 5th Grandparent conference and the 8th Regional Conference. The 2nd Annual Joey Hebert Classic golf tournament was held in August, grossed $75,000. The 11th Annual St. Paul Buddy Walk was attended by over 5,000 walkers. The 7th Annual Duluth Buddy Walk was attended by over 1,500 walkers. The Buddy Walks together raised over $250,000. In October the Association held its 2nd Education Conference. By the end of the year there were 24 parent groups.


In 2009, the Association celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary with a gala in November: A Black and Silver Night. In the spring, the Association held the 12th Youth & Adult Conference and the 6th Grandparent conference. The 3rd Annual Joey Hebert Classic golf tournament was held in August, raising over $51,000. The 12th Annual St. Paul Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk was attended by over 5,500 walkers. The 8th Annual Duluth Buddy Walk was attended by over 1,500 walkers. The Walks together raised over $220,000. In October the Association held its 3rd Annual Educators Conference in the Twin Cities and Grand Rapids. By the end of the year there were 27 parent groups.


In 2010 we had a busy spring. In March there was a dance at the Medina Ballroom. Our 9th Regional Conference, “Lights, Camera, Action!” was held in April. May saw our 13th Annual Youth & Adult Conference and out 7th Annual Grandparents Conference. The 4th Annual Joey Hebert Golf Tournament was held on a hot August day, $60,000 was raised. Early in September we held our first Adult Matters Conference in Roseville and we are very excited about the future of this conference! Our biggest fundraising events of the year, our Step Up for Down Syndrome Walks were held in September in both St. Paul and Duluth, over 8000 attended and over $200,000 was raised. October saw our 4th Annual Educators Conferences in the Metro and in Brainerd. Also in August was our first ever Self Advocate Travel Club trip to Chicago for a long weekend, a great time was had by all. At the end of the year there were 25 Parent Groups and the new metro area Grandparent Group was doing great!


In the spring of 2011, on 3/21, World Down Syndrome Day, we created sticker for Dress Down Day that was a fundraiser and public awareness event. We also had a Spring Thaw Event in April. Our Elementary School Book Bundles were first offered and have been quite a success! Our 14th Annual Youth & Adult conference and 8th Annual Grandparent conference were held in May. The 5th Annual Joey Hebert Golf Classic was held on August 1st . The JHC has netted over $200,000 in its’ first 5 years. The 3rd Annual Eli Matthew Lauermann Memorial Motorcycle & Classic Car Run and the 1st Annual Shifting Gears Bike Race were both held by fabulous members/parents raised funds for DSAM. Our 14th Annual St. Paul and the 9th Annual Step Up for Down Syndrome Walks were held on September 25th. About 8000 attended both walks and over $235,000 was raised. Monkey Mind Pirates put on meetings twice each Saturday from Oct 22nd to November 6th encouraging people with Down syndrome to communicate their thoughts and feelings which ended with a play written by the young adults who attended, a great time was had by all! October 25th the Educator Conference was held at the Mall of America.


DSAM started a new support group for the men of the families as D.A.D.S. kicked off in March. By the end of 2012 a consistent location was found at the Park Tavern. We had a spring full of conferences. On April 14th we ran our 15th Annual Youth & Adult Conference at the same time and place as our 2nd Adult Matters Conference. Attendees of both conferences liked this arrangement. Our 10th Regional Conference, with the theme “By the Numbers” was held on May 5th to rave reviews and our 9th Annual Grandparent Half Day Conference was held on May 12th and was very well attended. In August we kicked off a new event, Lose the Training Wheels Bike Camp camp to town. It was held at Hamline University and all who attended felt it was a fabulous success and will become an annual event! Also in August we had 6th Annual Joey Hebert Golf Classic which raised $83,000, Including a literal jumbo check for $20,000 raised by a small group of Cargill friends of the Heberts! Shifting Gears is growing and raised almost $3000 and the Eli Matthew Lauermann Motorcycle and Classic Car Run made over $1500! The premier event of the year, the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk: 15th for St Paul, 10th for Duluth, was attended by over 8000 people and raised about $225,000!! On October 23rd the Educator Conference covered the growing field of iPad apps and also brought back by popular demand Wendy Selnes for her presentation on behavior modification. A half day mini EdCon was brought to Duluth for a repeat of Lisa Juliar’s iPad presentation on November 10th.


The more than twenty support groups both DSAM and those run in partnership, including the DADS and Grandparent groups, continue to be of great help to families of people with Down syndrome.  Our spring conferences, the Adult Matters and Youth & Adult Conferences that were run congruently provided great information for parents while their adult children learn much from a wide variety of workshop options.  The Grandparent Conference is a half day full of information for those that attended. The annual conference held on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This year was the second time we sponsored a bike camp, this year called iCan Shine Bike Camp.  It was held on July 22 – 26 at Hamline University and it was again an amazing success for all those who attended.  In August our First Annual Tee It Up for Down Syndrome Golf Classic was held at Deer Run Golf Club in Victoria was organized by fabulous volunteers from our Board of Directors.  There were 88 golfers and six more joined them for dinner and almost $11,000 was raised.  Parent organized fundraisers continued to grow i.e. Shifting Gears Bike Ride in Owatonna, 114 bikers and it grossed just over $7,000 and the Eli Lauermann Motorcycle and Classic Car Run raised almost $1,100.  Our major fundraising event, the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walks in St. Paul (16th Annual) and Duluth (11th Annual) were attended by over 8,000 people in St. Paul & Duluth on the last Sunday of September and raised over $206,000The final conference of the year, the Educator Conference, was again held at the Mall of America’s Great Hall in early November and was attended by about 115 educators and parents.  Finally, our second Wine Event was held on November 1 and was enjoyed by 64 people and raised $2,600