he Buddy Cruise is totally inclusive! The positive impact and awareness our group brings to all of the other people on the cruise is what makes it especially awesome. The Buddy Cruise isn’t just a fun vacation with like-minded people, it’s also a conference at sea. Coffee talks each morning on a variety of topics and
educational workshop sessions geared to different age levels and interests. I attended sessions on estate planning, self-advocacy, Moyamoya disease, and vision issues.
We also got to mingle with movie stars Zack Gottsagen (The Peanut Butter Falcon) and David DeSanctis (Where Hope Grows). Zack gave two presentations, we watched his movie, and we able to ask him (and his mom) questions. There were also many fun activities planned like the yearbook signing meet and greet, Zumba led by Megan Bell a self-advocate who has Down syndrome, dances, scavenger hunts, riding the Flowrider, meeting new friends, excursions at the ports of Aruba and Curacao, and more. Did I mention dances?
The amount of awareness and education the Buddy Cruise organization puts in all year long is phenomenal. It’s not just a cruise once a year. It’s a year round commitment to building inclusive experiences, building inclusive communities, and supporting others around the globe. We can’t thank the Buddy Cruise and all of the volunteers enough for all that they do and for putting together this amazing trip!
The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo (DSAGT) is excited to announce that they have created an organizational endowment fund with the Greater Toledo Community Foundation.
The Greater Toledo Community Foundation is the community foundation serving the Toledo region, including northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Since 1971, more than 1,000 funds have been created with a combined market value of $329 million. In 2019, the foundation provided $17.4 million in grant funding.
In 2020, DSAGT was named as a beneficiary of the Sharon Rutter Estate. DSAGT is deeply humbled by Ms. Rutter’s generous decision to support the local Down syndrome community and it is due to her gift that the organization was able to establish this endowment.
The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo Endowment Fund will directly impact future generations to come. This funding will allow DSAGT to continue strengthening and growing the programs and services they offer to individuals with Down syndrome and their families. Furthermore, gifts made toward the endowment will grow the principle balance, allowing for larger annual distributions that will strengthen the organizations sustainability for many years to come. Through working with the Greater Toledo Community Foundation, the organization can also now accept publicly traded securities, closely held stock, life insurance policies, real estate, and other unique donations.
“Our board felt this investment was crucial to diversifying our revenue streams to ensure our organizational future. This would not have been possible without the incredible work of the DSAGT Board of Directors and our Director, Krista!" says Ali Kingston, DSAGT Board President. “I want to thank Sandy Wiley the executor of the bequest from Sharon Rutter. Without the generous donation from Ms. Rutter and assistance from Ms. Wiley, this fund would not have been possible.”
If you would like to support DSAGT and make a gift to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo Endowment Fund, you can do so by clicking the link below and you will be directed to the Community Foundation website.
Tell us a little about yourself...
I am the Board President for DSAGT. I currently live in Washington and am an attorney at a
nonprofit law firm.
When did you join the DSAGT Board and what encouraged you to become a DSAGT
I joined the DSAGT Board at the end of 2019. I was looking for an organization with a great
community that would allow me to do more than just write a check each month. This Board
allows me to utilize my professional skills and fills up my cups on days that I feel drained.
What are you most excited to help DSAGT accomplish in 2022?
Navigating the pandemic has been hard and I think we have done a good job of still operating
as an organization. There has been some really hard work happening behind the scenes and I
am excited for the brand new programs and services that will be offered to our families. I am
especially excited for the programing geared towards welcoming on new families because I
want them to know from the moment they get that diagnosis there is community waiting for
them. Also, I am excited for the programming we will be planning for our teens and young
adults. I hope we can bring some families back that may have not been involved for the past
Why do you think it’s important for individuals to volunteer with DSAGT?
One of my favorite quotes is, “Act as if what you do makes a difference – it does.” Whether you
join the DSAGT Board, a committee, or volunteer at a single event – it will all have a lasting
impact on the lives of our families and on yours. The great thing about DSAGT is that you also
do not have to be local to Ohio or Michigan to volunteer. There are numerous ways you can
support our community all you have to do is ask how.
What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?
I love to travel. My family and friends live through the country so I spend the majority of my
free time traveling to them or showing them around the newest city I have moved to. When I
am not traveling I am volunteering, it is how I feel reenergized after a stressful week.
DSAGT Volunteer Nominated for National Philanthropy Day
The Association of Fundraising Professionals of Northwest Ohio (AFP NWO) celebrated their 34th Annual National Philanthropy Day. The annual event is way to show gratitude to individuals who have significantly contributed to the welfare of the communities all across Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Each year, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo (DSAGT) selects a volunteer who has made a significant impact on the organization.
This year, DSAGT nominated volunteer, Jessica Casper Hilt. Jessica joined the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo in 2019 after the birth of her daughter Gabriella, who has Down syndrome. Since 2019, Jessica has become one of DSAGT’s most dedicated volunteers. She has been coordinating our monthly Moms’ nights out. She’s also been a member of our Program committee, Buddy Walk planning committee and our New Parent Outreach committee. Jessica’s deepest passion though is meeting new families and getting them connected to the organization and the local Down syndrome community. She goes out of her way to make sure new moms are never feeling alone in their journey and are welcomed into the Down syndrome community.
You can learn more about AFP NWO by visiting their facebook page or their website: community.afpglobal.org/afpnwo. And, if you're interested in volunteering with DSAGT, you can email us at email@example.com for more information.
WTell us a little more about your educational background and professional journey.
I started my educational journey at the University of Charleston (WV) where I majored in Athletic Training. After completing my undergraduate degree, I moved home to be closer to family. I took a year off between college and getting started in a career to study for athletic training boards and to work as a rowing coach at St. Ursula Academy. During this time, I also joined the Junior League of Toledo; where I found my passion for volunteering and helping the community. After working as an Athletic Trainer for a few years, I decided it was not the best path for me, and I went back to school to the University of Toledo to become a Special Education Teacher. I have been working as a Special Education Teacher for the past 6 years.
Why did you want to join the DSAGT board?
A friend from the Junior League of Toledo (Ali Kingston) introduced me to DSAGT. Ali always had amazing stories about the differences DSAGT was making in the community and I knew it was something I was interested in!! DSAGT allows me to combine my passions - volunteering and individuals with special needs.
Why do you think it's important for professionals to be involved in the community?
Professionals make up a large part of the community, but we don't always know what is best. It has been amazing to see the passion of other DSAGT board members and parents. I have learned so much from hearing about experiences from parents and other professionals!! Being a Special Educator does not stop when school is out; so I am thankful to be involved in the DSAGT community to continue learning and giving back!
What do you enjoy most about being a part of DSAGT?
My most enjoyable part of being with DSAGT has been attending the Parent Advocacy Training night. The opportunity to hear parents and other professionals tell stories about their positive and negative experiences will always stick with me.
What are some other things you enjoy spending your time on?
Outside of DSAGT, I am an active member of the Junior League of Toledo. I also teach at the Aerospace & Natural Science Academy of Toledo, at Toledo Public Schools and will be teaching summer school at Waite High School. Outside of COVID-19 times, I enjoy trying new restaurants, going to the Theater with my mom, and traveling. When I get to lounge around at home, you can find me snuggling with my 2 Bengal cats; Axe & Jax.