Nikki and Alan were shocked when their newborn son, Wil, received a Down syndrome diagnosis. While Nikki immediately felt peace, Alan felt his entire world was crumbling. A month before Wil was born, he had a strong impression Wil was going to be different. Specifically, that he would have Down syndrome. He pushed that thought aside because nothing had been brought up at any of Nikki’s prenatal appointments. So when Wil was born and Alan saw his almond-shaped eyes, he thought their “world had come to an end.” It took Alan over a month of grieving before he was able to move forward.
“You’re Life is Going to be Blessed”
Nikki and Alan didn’t know anyone that had a child with Down syndrome. They didn’t know what to expect or what their life would be like. During this time of uncertainty, neighbors and friends came to them with love and support. One individual said to them, “Your life is going to be blessed.” That statement has proved true time and time again for their family.
“He just exudes joy all the time,” Nikki said. In their house, when one of their other children is being grumpy, they are told they need some “Wil-time”. It changes their mood immediately because he has such a spirit about him and he makes everyone happy.
Family Immediately Loved Sibling, Down Syndrome and All
Alan was a little worried how their other children would react to Wil having Down syndrome. Their reaction, however, helped him move past the negative thoughts he had. They immediately loved him and didn’t care that he was “different”. “He has helped them to be more accepting of those who are different,” Allan said. That became apparent one day in the grocery store.
Alan was shopping with one of his daughters, age six, and she pointed to an older girl with Down syndrome. She said to her dad, “She has Down syndrome. She is beautiful.” Who knows if she would have had that same perspective if it wasn’t for Wil? He is still so young but he has had an enormous impact on his siblings.
When Wil was born, Alan worried some extended family members would be stand-offish because Wil had Down syndrome. On the contrary, some family came to see the new baby despite living far away.
Diagnosis Positively Impacts Strangers
Nikki and Alan created an Instagram account to share their story and experiences with family and friends. Their story has inspired and educated hundreds of people since then. They have received numerous emails from followers saying that they want to adopt a child with Down syndrome. “It blows my mind,” Alan said, “because he is four years old and having this impact on people.”
In 2015, Alan got the idea to photograph Wil so it appeared he was flying. Family and friends loved the picture so he made more of them. Alan realized the pictures were symbolic of what Wil could accomplish. With the help of family and friends, Nikki and Allan believe Wil can accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Then they got the idea to make a “Wil can Fly” calendar to raise funds for a couple of Down syndrome foundations.
Half the proceeds go to Ruby’s Rainbow which provides scholarships for adults with Down syndrome to attend college. The other half of the proceeds go to Reese’s Rainbow. They help with adoptions all over the world of children with special needs. The calendar is on its third year of production and the experiences they’ve had are amazing. You can find out more by visiting wilcanfly.com.
“Welcome to the Cool Club”
No matter when you find out your child has Down syndrome, “Don’t stress out,” Nikki said. The internet has a lot of information out there and not all of it is positive. You will have a better experience by meeting families with a child with Down syndrome. “I have yet to meet a family who has a negative reaction to it,” said Alan. After speaking with fellow parents, you will be excited about what your life has in store because you are “embraced in this huge Down syndrome family.” There are going to be challenges, but every family will tell you the joys significantly outweigh those challenges.