History of the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society

GVDSS created a new event, Hang 21 Surf, bringing families together in Tofino for a weekend of surf lessons, social interaction and networking. GVDSS held their 6th Education conference in Nanoose, bringing together experts with educators from the North Island to support the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society and their families. The conference was also live streamed over Zoom enabling a broader reach to educators from as far away as Saskatchewan.
2022 GVDSS launched a new website and updated logo with a focus on “Celebration, Community and Connection”. Following a member survey where GVDSS sought feedback on service gaps in the community, an inaugural member funding program was initiated to provide direct funding support to families for needed therapies and life skill enhancement opportunities
2020 Many of GVDSS’ programs and events had to be postponed or moved online due to COVID-19 precautions. GVDSS continue to provide support to families through online engagement.  For WDSD, GVDSS supported the Light Up for WDSD global initiative and 7 of the 13 local municipalities issued proclamations for WDSD.
2019 GVDSS co-hosted the Canadian Down Syndrome Society national conference at the Delta Pointe resort welcoming over 300 delegates and family members to Victoria for the three-day event.
2018 GVDSS revamped the GO21 Walk from a fall event to a summer event expanding the walk to include a Family Fun Day with games and activities open to both members and the public to help raise awareness in the community. Our third annual conference for educators was focused on Positive Behaviour Support.
2017  GVDSS updated its Constitution and Bylaws in order to bring them in line with new BC Societies Act requirements. In October, GVDSS hosted our second Education Conference with a focus on Reading Comprehension and Numeracy, partnering once again with the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. During Canadian Down Syndrome Week, CTV News ran a series of features on three GVDSS families spanning different age groups and experiences to highlight both the challenges and exceptional abilities of persons with Down Syndrome. Later in the fall, we sponsored a workshop for parents on Sexuality.
2016 In October, GVDSS hosted a one day conference in partnership with the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, funded in part by a CDSS grant: Embracing Success – Educating Students with Down Syndrome. This conference was attended by over 100 educators, special education assistants, support staff and members covering a wide range of topics geared towards improving educational opportunities for our school aged members. In November, we hosted our second annual GO21 fundraising walk and a first teen social get together to complement the programs being offered for young children and self advocates by GVDSS.
2015  GVDSS celebrated its 25th anniversary since being incorporated. The adult social group was kicked off with monthly outings and events to foster connections among adults with Down Syndrome. The UPs Club and Baby UPs Club provided regular opportunities for newer DS families to get together to share their experiences. The GVDSS Facebook page was launched to serve as the primary means for connecting the membership.
2014  In November, GVDSS hosted a Buddy Walk to help raise awareness of Down Syndrome to coincide with National Down Syndrome. A huge success, the Buddy Walk brought out over 200 family members and friends and raised funds to support G.V.D.S.S programs.
2013  Website was moved to GVDSS.org
2010  In January, the GVDSS celebrated its 20th anniversary since being incorporated. Our revamped website was launched.
Heading into its 6th year, the G.V.D.S.S. Music Therapy program adds to their support from Ronald McDonald House Charities and Success with Six with Santas Anonymous. We participated in the Vancouver Island Baby Fair. Through a generous donation from GJ Photo/Look Matters, the GVDSS had a new logo created, as well as a new website. Discussions about group speech therapy program (in conjunction with Little Steps Therapy Services) were underway as well as disucssions with the Ministry to see if at-home dollars could be unbundled and be directed to groups speech therapy.
2008  June of this year the G.V.D.S.S. Music Therapy program marks the end of its 4th year with the graduation of four of the first Under Six students moving up to the next level. The 17th Annual GVDSS Winter Wonderland Craft Fair celebrates its third year at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre.
2007  Participated in the Vancouver Island Baby Fair (community awareness events)
  We officially launch our website, www.gvdss.ca (now replaced by www.gvdss.org), to provide information about Down syndrome and update members on current activities. The website Across the water and close to home, the 9th World Down Syndrome Congress is held and 15 families, including two self-advocates sponsored by the G.V.D.S.S., attend. Families from throughout British Columbia and Vancouver Island are invited to the first G.V.D.S.S. Rathtrevor Camping Weekend.
Drawing close to 700 people, the second Pajama Party for Kids sponsored by the G.V.D.S.S. took place in the massive tennis court area at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. Our 14th annual craft fair became known as the G.V.D.S.S. Winter Wonderland Craft Fair and it moved from its traditional location in Cordova Bay to the west shore’s brand new Eagle Ridge Community Centre.
  The Pajama Party for Kids was held in the gymnasium at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. Started as a fundraiser to match funds granted to the Music Therapy Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music (V.C.M.) for children with Down syndrome, the event raised community awareness and was a success with the contributions of G.V.D.S.S. members, local community groups, businesses and celebrities as well as municipal emergency teams. In the fall of 2004 music therapy classes for children and youth (ages 18 months – 18 years old) started at the V.C.M. under the guidance of Dr. Johanne Brodeur, Department Head for the Music Therapy Department
2001  Working with the local medical community, we revise hospital policy to include up to date information and guidelines for doctors and health care professionals sharing the news to families who have a child with Down syndrome.
2000 Speakers from our group traveled to the World Down Syndrome Congress in Sydney, Australia, to promote a new revised protocol brochure from the G.V.D.S.S. called Breaking the News.
1999  May 20 – 22 of this year, we hosted the 11th National Canadian Down Syndrome Society Conference in Victoria. It was called Growing  Together and 500 delegates attended. Plenary/keynote speakers included Andrea Friedman and Marjorie Friedman, Miles Ramsay and Dr. Len Leshin. Thanks for the hard work of all of our members it was another very successful conference hosted in Victoria.
1998  The G.V.D.S.S. produced the revised parent package, renaming it Ups and Downs: An Information Package from Parents of Children with Down Syndrome. It included an information booklet from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, a recommended reading list, various information brochures and a special booklet called “Messages from the Heart” which included personal accounts from our members and photos of our children. These words of encouragement and support proved to be very helpful to new parents. This parent package was distributed to maternity hospitals and support groups throughout B.C. The C.D.S.S. was given permission to use a slightly altered version of the parent packages for distribution throughout Canada.
1990  We became incorporated as the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society.
1989 We hosted the 2nd National Canadian Down Syndrome Society Conference. It was called Preparing for the Year 2000 and was held at the University of Victoria on July 13 – 15. Approximately 500 delegates from across the country attended. Speakers included Siegfried Preschel author of A Parent’s Guide to Down Syndrome: Toward a Brighter Future
1987 The need for an information package for parents of newborns with Down syndrome was realized. With the co-operation of the Province of B.C. and Ministry of Health, this new package known as Ups and Down Syndrome: A New Parent Resource was produced and distributed to all the maternity hospitals throughout B.C.
1986  Parents of children with Down syndrome began meeting monthly, forming a support group known as Ups and Downs. They met on the second Saturday of every month at the Queen Alexandra Children’s Centre Hospital in the Pearkes Building from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Families brought their children, who played in an adjourning room. Guest speakers were invited to the meetings. Topics of interest included schooling issues, behaviour challenges, health concerns (ex. hearing, dental, speech). Social outings were also offered which included swimming, picnics and parties. Fundraisers were held such as our annual Christmas Craft Fair, garage sales and clothing drives. As well a monthly newsletter was established.