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« I was doing a search this morning and saw some articles in languages I don’t understand, » Erikson said.The Catholic Church teaches that all life is sacred and strongly advocates against abortion – but the story is even more personal for Vander Woude. The 47-year-old priest has a brother,Ugging Joseph, who has Down syndrome.The priest’s father, Thomas Vander Woude, died in 2008 after diving in a septic tank to save Joseph, who had fallen in while walking in the backyard. »With our experience with my little brother Josie, this is something that is close to my heart for sure, » said the priest.

More than 70 priests attended Thomas Vander Woude’s funeral at Holy Trinity Church, including his eldest son,Ugging Thomas Jr., who officiated at the Mass and delivered the homily.It’s not unusual for families to find children with Down syndrome to adopt on social media, said Diane Grover, founder and president of the International Down Syndrome Coalition. In fact, several of the coalition’s board members have adopted children after seeing a Facebook post, she said. »It’s a beautiful way for people to get the information out there, » Grover said. After checking to make sure the story was true, the coalition helped spread the word on social media about Vander Woude’s message and received hundreds of calls in return, she said.

« Its a good eye-opener for our society to see that so many families value a child with Down syndrome like any other child and want to raise them as their own, » said Jon Coleman, president of the National Down Syndrome Society. »People with Down syndrome are making great strides in living more independently,Ugging attending college and working. With the proper support, they can do so much if given the opportunity. »