Sue and Jim Gainer were ready. As parents of twin daughters, they anxiously awaited the arrival of their third. As Macayla made her entrance into the world, the doctors and Gainers quickly realized that Macayla was born with Down syndrome.
Unsure of what to do, Jim’s parents put the couple in touch with their close friends Peter and Anne Shannon, former CEO of Aspire, who helped guide the Gainers on the initial steps of caring for Macayla.
“For the first couple of months, there was a lot of worry while standing over her crib and crying, not knowing what’s going to happen to her for the rest of her life,” Sue admits. But at the encouragement of the Shannons, Sue made an appointment with the Vice President of Aspire Kids soon after Macayla’s birth. And from that initial meeting, a strong and solid relationship between the Gainers and Aspire began to build and grow.
Since she was six weeks old, Macayla has worked with physical therapist Paula Cox at Aspire. The experience has been empowering for Sue.
“The therapists are there to teach Macayla, but they’re also there to teach me,” she said. “Paula is here once a week for therapy. The rest of the week I’m using what Paula has taught me, like moving Macayla’s legs, finding her muscle tone and making her sit up.”
In turn, Sue teaches her husband and her mom what to do and how to care for Macayla, creating a domino effect of support for the little girl. Macayla continues to improve and now also receives speech, occupational and developmental therapy services through Aspire.
Beyond therapies, the emotional support Sue and her family have received through Aspire has been life changing.
“Anytime I had anything I was worried about, or had a concern about something, Paula answered my questions, or she found out who I should talk to, and pointed me in the right direction,” Sue said. “If I didn’t have Aspire, I’d still be walking around thinking, ‘oh my gosh, what do I do?’”
As a way to say thank you to the organization that helped her daughter and her family, Sue volunteers with Aspire, and was on the committees for Big City Night and Aspire’s Beautiful Children Fashion Show, raising donations and sponsorships for the events. All three of her daughters, she added, modeled for the fashion show.
Giving back to the organization, she noted, even in little ways, is an awesome feeling and incredibly important to her. Her involvement also inspires others to give to Aspire—after attending the Big City Night event with the Gainers, several of her friends gave contributions to the organization to help continue the progress and services Aspire provides.
“I totally believe in the entire organization, and I just want it to thrive,” Sue said. “Thanks to Aspire, Macayla is ahead of the game. She surprises me with how much she understands the world and what’s expected of her. She’s loving, beautiful and smart.”