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Jesslynn has an infectious smile, and generates warmth and energy. No one would ever know about the obstacles she has overcome in her thirteen years of life. Jesslynn has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal condition often associated with intellectual and developmental challenges. At age eleven, Jesslynn was removed from her parents’ custody and separated from her siblings when her parents faced personal challenges of their own. She then went to live with her grandparents, Mary and Billy.

Facing health issues themselves, Mary and Billy needed help in raising Jesslynn. That’s where the Kannapolis YMCA came in. Mary signed Jesslynn up for summer camp with the support of the Open Doors financial assistance program.

At first, Mary was concerned that Jesslynn wouldn’t fit in with the other preteens attending camp, but knew it was necessary for Jesslynn to be around and interact with children her own age. Looking back at the last two years, Mary recognizes how much Jesslynn has grown through her camp experiences. “The YMCA camp has helped me get Jesslynn to socialize with her own age group, at the level she needs to. Even her teachers have remarked that she is kind, helps others and displays strong leadership skills. This is something we couldn’t have done by ourselves.” Mary emphasizes how impressed she was by the YMCA staff’s commitment to Jesslynn’s success. “Rick, one of the camp and after school staff, took the time to research Down Syndrome and learn how to work with children that have it. To know they care that much about Jesslynn and her growth means the world to Billy and me.”

Untitled 2Jami Eager, Youth Development and Active Older Adults Director, adores Jesslynn and works with her daily to strengthen her leadership and communication skills. Jesslynn also has a special place in her heart for Kannapolis YMCA Executive Director, Philip Belfield. She greets him with a big smile and a hug every time she sees him.

Jesslynn now attends summer camp and after school at the YMCA. Mary and Billy are also looking into swim programs and Tae Kwon Do to give Jesslynn the same opportunities her classmates have. She does competition cheer on the Starfire team for One United All-Stars in Mooresville, has participated in dance class at school, and is looking forward to joining a dance studio soon. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, rising stars like Jesslynn can have access to the many programs the YMCA offers, continuing to learn, grow and thrive in a community that is committed to giving all children the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve.