Lindsay Schulz lives a very full day—student at Cape Fear Community College, sales rep at Carolina Country Store, volunteer at the Arboretum, and neighbor and friend in her community.
Lindsay, age 33, and her brother Michael, age 32, born 17 months apart, have Down syndrome and live with their loving and devoted parents Natalia and Horst—a retired air traffic controller. Two younger brothers: Adam, a banker, and Steven a doctor, live on their own but are equally committed to the family.
“If you want to know what love is all about—what lack of prejudice is all about—just live with Down syndrome children for a week, and you will know,” Horst says. “Still, for parents, it is a full-time job and requires ongoing awareness and attention.”
Despite the closeness in age the two share, they are completely rounded as their own person. Both have a distinct set of likes and dislikes, and they each comprise a unique personality. Raising two children with Downs, who can be at times be ornery, proves taxing; however, the rewards are innumerable.
“Our pediatrician warned us that this situation would either break our marriage or make it stronger,” Natalia explains. “Yet, both Horst and I knew we were going head first [to] raise these two as best we could. It was hard—very hard—because at one point we had four children all in diapers! But we decided, both of us working side-by-side, that each child would have every opportunity.”
The opportunities have paid off. Lindsay works four days a week selling pecan snacks—also made by the developmentally disabled (DD)—at Carolina Country Store located in the Old Wilmington City Market downtown. She is truly open and generous as she offers samples of the different sweet-and-savory varieties of nuts, and explains how they complement and differ from each other. Country Store owner Tim Corbett—whom Lindsay has worked for four years—says she is totally reliable and conscientious. Also, she has the job as long as she wants it.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth with Lindsay and Michael (who works at Cici’s Pizza),” Natalia comments. “Initially, Lindsay was shy and not very open, but she has really blossomed since working at the Country Store. She is much more confident and engaging. We are very grateful to those businesses willing to employ the DD population.”
One major preparation for the workplace comes from Cape Fear Community College’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) essentials program. It’s designed for students who wish to improve reading, writing and math skills. Coupled with career exploration and work readiness, students are prepared to successfully transition to higher learning, employability and self-sufficiency. Instructor Tonya Morgan says, “The two-year curriculum plan bridges the gap between high school and entrance into the community.”
A lover of plants and gardens, Schulz graduated from the Ability Garden program for the DD population at the New Hanover County Arboretum. During the past two years, she has volunteered for different functions and is particularly fond of the upcoming Water Garden Tour (held next month, June 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m).
Helping Schulz and her brother prosper are providers Jen and Ben, employees of HomeCare Management Corporation. The statewide company serves 700 clients in 35 different counties and is dedicated to the highest level of care. Nationwide, there are some 340,000 people who have Down syndrome and deserve more care and consideration.
“We had 20 hours of service when we first moved to Wilmington seven years ago,” Natalia explained. “Today, we only have eight hours. North Carolina has reduced funding for developmental disability programs, which is what Down syndrome falls under. We are on a waiting list to get more hours because this is still a 24/7 job for us parents.”
Church friends at Kingdom Hall and neighbors are often supportive. Cycling is a favorite sport of Lindsay’s, and she frequently rides through her neighborhood to collect newspapers and deliver them to her neighbors’ front doors. This service has won her the title “Paper Princess,” a name she relishes.
As well, Lindsay enjoys cooking her own breakfast, especially French toast. “I like to make grilled cheese for my dad and green tea for my mom,” she says. “I have nice parents.”
To further support this tribute, Ben, Michael’s provider for the last four years, arrives on the scene. “I just love these guys!” he says. “Lindsay and Michael are incredibly fortunate to have these parents. If I didn’t have my own, I’d want them to be mine.”
Natalia pops up and retrieves some of Lindsay’s leftover potato soup for Ben. “And this is another reason,” he laughs. “Her cooking!”
To learn more information about Down syndrome, check out the Tri County Down Syndrome Group, the Linda CRNIC Institute for Down Syndrome, and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.