First ever Mosaic Down Syndrome Get Together
Blackpool, UK - October 2003

How the first one went……a diary of a weekend

Friday 31st October 2003

Trains, Planes and Automobiles……..

Well I suppose it started a few days earlier for some people……Nancy Ross
and her son Keith, Susan Garner and her daughter Alex set off from the USA
(Connecticut for Nancy and Utah for Susan), a couple of days earlier and arrived
in Blackpool on the Thursday evening via Dublin and Edinburgh. Dave and
Laraine Hougen arrived from Alberta, Canada on the Thursday evening as
well via Seattle, London and Hereford. Their daughter, CariAnn managed to
make Blackpool on the Friday evening via Lethbridge, Seattle, London and
Manchester. The airline lost her luggage and, very tired, she still came to meet us all!

Sarah Maguire, her son Dan and her mother Doris arrived from Coleraine in Northern Ireland via Liverpool. Rob and Lesley Freeman and their children, Mary-Louise, Kira and Aaron had driven up to Blackpool from their home in Essex and John and Pat Porter had flown up to Blackpool from their home in Mill Hill, London with their sons Chris and Matthew.

John and Clare Green had driven up from their home in Stevenage with their children Charlie and Eleanor Louise but couldn't book into the hotel everyone else stayed at. They managed to find one a long way down the promenade but they still came to join us at our hotel. Angela Melville had driven down from Kirkcaldy in Scotland with her children Lindsay, Ryan and Jade and Lesley Morgan had driven from Ormskirk with her husband and daughter Heleena. Paul and Angela Blackburn had driven down from Middlesbrough with their son Joe and daughters Caitlin and Angela's sister Jennifer and Robin (our webmaster) arrived from Hexham to meet all the parents he helps (unfortunately he had to leave early and still had a 3 hour drive home). Finally Judy and Bill Green and their daughter Katie had walked from their home ½ mile away! Great treks all and everyone had tales to tell of their adventures.

Eventually, we all gathered at the Big Blue Hotel conference centre in Blackpool, UK on the Friday evening where we tried to get to know each other and the children played. The funny thing was I was playing with the children with a witches hat on and lantern and then I looked up. In the doorway were the Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayoress! They had arrived early! I nearly fell on the floor in shock and disbelief !!!! I just said "Hello, welcome, come in (smiling)" !!! Well it was informal wasn't it and, after a few words from me, Blackpool's MDSUK host Judy Green, the Get Together was formally opened by the Deputy Mayor of Blackpool, Councillor Granville Heap. Katie gave the deputy Mayoress some flowers from us all. Katie wasn't going to do this but I'm so glad she did. They are for mum she had said earlier in the day, not for that lady with the big necklace "chuckle"!

The children were looked after for 2 hours by a Children's Entertainer -Hayley-Anna - who did a superb job in keeping their attention while parents were given the chance to finally meet one another face to face and exchange stories. The conference centre had a quiet room where parents could go and talk in private away from the hustle and bustle of the main conference room.

With it being Halloween, children were provided with Halloween sweets, drinks, cakes, balloons and lots of other treats which had been kindly donated by local businesses. Some children took advantage and had dressed up for the occasion. For the grown ups we had a bar below so that wasn't too bad. I did try my best to get donations for us !!! I got a couple of things pens and pencils from Julie at Blackpool tourism her budget couldn't supply us with free bar drinks "smile"! Anthony at the Big Blue Hotel gave us the room hire free, brought us a pumpkin, and the use of a phone to the hotel if we needed him. Angela brought some super Halloween cakes, which went down really well, Pat brought pass the parcel Halloween toys, and Laraine brought pencils, rubbers and Halloween toy's for the children as well. So we had everything we needed for a FUN NIGHT. The evening had started at 7pm and by the time we finished at 11pm, the children were ready for bed!

Saturday 1st November 2003

On the Saturday morning we all made our way down to Blackpool Tower and had a great time looking round the aquarium, riding the Dinasoar ride, playing in Jungle Jims or going to the top of the Tower! The old-style circus was fun and kept everyone entertained for two hours. In the evening we all boarded a bus for a tour of the world famous Blackpool Illuminations, The bus arrived a little late but it was so busy on the promenade. It always is in Blackpool, and those upstairs in the open top (parents had the choice of up or down) had plenty of fresh air (hahaha) and we just about managed to get back in time to see the firework display from the bus. We were trying to get back to see them go off at the Pleasure Beach but some of us still had a fantastic view upstairs in the cold so it was worth it,

Afterwards, parents made the most of the time together planning our next Get Together and Angela, CariAnn and myself had lots to talk about too until 3am!

Sunday 2nd November 2003

While some families packed their bags and headed off for home, others spent the day on the Pleasure Beach and rode the rollercoasters and other scary rides! Full marks to CariAnn and Alex who showed no fear in taking on the biggest rides! Even CariAnn's dad, Dave and Ryan's mum, Angela, were brave enough to go on the Big One !!!!! Now that's scary and very high. I walked round watching. Bill took Katie on some of the children's rides like the log flume, bought candy floss, chocolate doughnuts and coffee. Pat, John, Chris and Matt went to the Sandcastle indoor swimming pool, where there are water chutes, swirling pools and it's like an oasis inside.

It was a big wrench when we all had to go our separate ways - but we know we will all meet up again soon! Thanks to everyone for coming - everyone made a big effort to come, spending a lot of money getting there and took time out of their busy lives to meet up. It was absolutely fantastic to meet online friends in real life who turned out to be just what we thought they would be - true friends.

Thanks go to The Big Blue Hotel (especially Anthony, Grant and Tim), Booths Supermarket, Blackpool Tourism, Leisure Parcs, Hampsons Bakery, Blackpool & Fylde Citizen, Blackpool & Fylde Evening Gazette, City Sightseeing, Tesco Express, Blackpool Sandcastle, Hayley-Anna, and Joan (Katie's lollipop lady) who all contributed to making the weekend the success it was.

It was a lot of hard work but it was well worth the effort - and to organise and host the event in just 6 months is amazing!

We hope that the next Get Together will be just as successful - only bigger! Judy won a competition in the local paper this week for her work with the MDSUK group and received a cheque for £500 to give to any charity of her choice. So we opened a bank account for the MDSUK group and put it in there. So now we have a start with our funds. Hopefully one day we will get donations to add to it from fundraising in the future.

We can't wait to see you all again! Time now to organize the next one.J

Take care. Miss you all !!!

Judy, Bill and Katie