At Shore Cultural Center the directors, musicians, stage managers and actors of the non-profit Silhouette Productions are busy preparing for opening night of The Music Man, including my daughter and her best friend.
During the final days of dress rehearsal, I found myself reaching out to straighten bow ties and blush up little cheeks as the energetic children’s ensemble filed past me onto the stage. One castmate, however, stopped in his tracks as I approached, the look on his face telling me he clearly needed a little extra time to think about letting me and my makeup brush anywhere near him. “Sam, this is Mrs. Turos. She’s my friend,” said his great-aunt, Meg McGarry, who is also in the play. “She wants to help make sure everyone can see you under the lights.” It took a moment, but by the time the curtains opened, Sam’s bright smile and rosy cheeks signaled the start of a friendship.
Whether it’s on the stage, the soccer field, in a Cub Scout meeting or between the lane lines at a Wickliffe Water Devils swim meet, Sam Wirsing is happiest when he gets to be in on the action, just like any other kid. So why doesn’t this outgoing little boy want me in his personal space? The combined challenges of Down Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety can quickly turn some of Sam’s favorite places and situations into a stressful event. With the support of his parents and a large network of friends and family, Sam does his best to navigate all of the activities he enjoys, but it’s not always easy.
Sam’s natural outgoing personality and impulsivity can sometimes present
challenges and safety concerns. When he gets overwhelmed, he can act out or shut down and become withdrawn. Having someone he trusts close by is helpful when he needs an extra dose of patience or support. Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched his siblings, cousins and countless caring friends help Sam find his place backstage or gently guide him through a tough social situation. But there have also been moments where I watched Sam struggle, when another child didn’t understand what he was trying to say or do and a situation like that can spin out of control quickly.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way forever. Sam loves dogs and his family has started a fundraising campaign in partnership with 4 Paws For Ability, an Ohio based charity dedicated to the training and placement of service dogs for disabled children and veterans. These service dogs provide companionship,increased independence, safety, and security to the children they serve. They also provide the families of these children with welcome peace of mind, knowing a vigilant service dog is nearby, to quickly alert them of matters requiring their attention.
The cost to train just one dog starts at $22,000 and Sam’s fundraising efforts will help him qualify for a super sidekick of his own, specially trained to anticipate and respond to his needs.
With a $10 donation to the Sidekick for Sam Campaign by October 21st 2016, you can receive your very own Sidekick Superhero T-shirt! 100% of proceeds will go directly to Sam’s fundraising efforts. T-shirt printing has been sponsored by Daniel Collins Design and Cintas apparel with support from SLY, Inc, McGarry & Sons, Specs 4 Us and Pat Catan’s. #SidekickForSam
To follow Sam’s progress, donate toward his goal or purchase a Tshirt, just visit the Side Kick for Sam Facebook page.
You can also comment below, and we’ll follow up with you directly to arrange local purchase and pick up of a #SideKickForSam Tshirt.