Between the t-shirt sale and 5K run each semester, Buggy Jo is a name most people on Oklahoma Christian University’s campus are familiar with. During this year’s Spring Sing, Oklahoma Christian students, faculty and alumni will have the chance to donate to the organization which supports Buggy Jo.
In its second year, the Spring Sing philanthropy project selected the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma (DSACO) as their organization to fund.
According to its website, the DSACO mission is to “raise awareness and provide resources, as well as promote acceptance and inclusion for people with Down Syndrome.”
Sophomore Abigail Kent, who is the fundraising coordinator for the Spring Sing philanthropy project, said she plans to facilitate this mission on Oklahoma Christian’s campus.
“November is when we decided that DSACO was going to be our recipient organization,” Kent said. “We did some preliminary planning by creating the fundraising team. It has started in earnest since we’ve gotten back to school. Now it’s the important stuff.”
According to Nicole Lawrence, the social media coordinator, bake sale organizer and silent auction organizer for the philanthropy project, DSACO has undeniable roots at Oklahoma Christian.
“I’ve personally heard about [DSACO] since Dr. Kern has a son, Buggy Jo, who is a part of the program,” Lawrence said. “It’s nice to have a great cause that is close to home since it’s based in central Oklahoma, and [has] personal ties to our campus family.”
Bobby Kern, psychology professor and president of the board of directors at DSACO, said he believes Oklahoma Christian’s connection with his son, Josiah, helped guide the fundraising team’s decision to support DSACO.
“I think OC’s connection with my son, Josiah, and the massive support we have every fall when selling our Team Buggy Jo t-shirts made a big difference in the decision,” Kern said. “I was very surprised late in the semester when Abigail Kent let me know that DSACO had been selected. From there, it has been a process of the students meeting with our staff at DSACO and getting things lined out for events.”
DSACO provides a multitude of services for around 700 families in central Oklahoma. The organization provides tutoring, microwave-based cooking classes, parent break-out groups, holiday events and new-parent meetings for families who are entering the world of having a child with Down Syndrome. According to Kern, this growth is a blessing in disguise.
“We have outgrown our current facility and are in the process of looking for our own space,” Kern said. “In fact, I would say that this is our biggest goal over the next several months.”
The money raised by the Oklahoma Christian philanthropy project will help aide DSACO through their growing pains. With a monetary goal of $15,000, the fundraising team will rely on donations from various groups to meet their goal. In addition to this, the philanthropy team plans to host an alumni dinner between the two Spring Sing shows March 3.
“So, $15,000 is a little bit higher than what was brought in last year, and being in the second year of the philanthropy project, this is still new,” Kent said. “We’re trying to figure out the most beneficial way to organize things. It’s like we’re still guinea pigs. We thought, ‘$15,000, why not?’” There’s no reason to not set our sights in that direction.”
Though there are many monetary ways to contribute to the organization and help the philanthropy team reach their goal. Students are also encouraged to get involved in DSACO through volunteering as well.
“We would love to have students become involved with DSACO,” Kern said. “The best way to do this is to go to our website, www.dsaco.org, and click on the volunteer tab. Once you attend one and work with these great people, you’ll be hooked.”
According to the DSACO website, the organization “envisions communities where everyone—including those with disabilities—is accepted, included, empowered and given the opportunity and choice to create their own happiness and path to success.”
“Five years ago, when we found out our unborn son had Down Syndrome, we were overwhelmed,” Kern said. “My OC family has rallied behind Josiah so many times in the past five years that I honestly can’t put into words how I feel about this place, the current students, alums, my fellow faculty members, the staff and the administration. So, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my heart, I simply say, ‘Thank you.’”