We met with Joey Kane the morning after he threw the opening pitch for the Seattle Mariner’s baseball game! Although an absolutely delightful surprise as part of his award the previous evening, he was still a bit embarrassed that everyone sharing our elevator had to hear about it when we brought it up. We’ll leave the rest of that story for later in our interview, but we enjoyed seeing his modesty in being highlighted for his achievements.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and when we recently read an article Joey wrote years ago, about living with Down Syndrome, we knew we had found the right person to spotlight this month. That article, by the way, paired with his brother’s earned them a 3rd place in a nationwide essay contest! Click HERE for Joey’s article and HERE for his brother’s.
What is Down Syndrome?
“Down Syndrome is when you are born with one extra chromosome” Joey explains as he wears a t-shirt his sister’s friend made which graphically announces “Chromosomally Enhanced.” “For me, I don’t see myself as having Down Syndrome. I see myself as everyone else. I know that I have it. I don’t see myself as different.” Click HERE for to see a shirt like Joey’s.
Do you have a motto in life?
When Joey wrote his article as an English assignment in high school, his theme followed the song “Anything You Can Do…” These days, Joey just likes to see people happy and enjoys the smiles on their faces. “I want people to know that I’m there for them if they need it.”
What are some of your current goals?
“The first one is I am trying to live independently, move out of the house. I’ve actually got a place and will move out in 4 or 5 months. It’s exciting for me.” How does his mom feel about this? “I think she thinks it is a good step for me, but it will be hard because they’ll be by themselves.” His brother and two sisters are already gone as Joey is the youngest of the four. His additional goals center around life in the new apartment: “learn how to do my own laundry and cooking and grocery shopping.”
What can you tell us about your work?
When Joey says the new apartment he’ll move into is “right on the bus line” – we can see why that’s important! Joey juggles a schedule of two paid jobs plus volunteer work.
“I work for the Seattle Mariners.” He was hired at age 16, as soon as he could work. He was already experienced as the equipment manager for his school, Kennedy High School, a job he still holds today. And a connection there introduced him to the Mariners. “I hand out the giveaways at the gate. We have bobble head days, t-shirt days. I get there before the game and start working. I’m done about 3rd or 4th inning and then I get to watch the game for free – and get half off food!” Not surprisingly, Joey has a lot of friends at the ballfield! The night before we met, Joey received an award before the start of the game. “The people who I work with have voted for me to be their most valuable player of the year! I got an award. I went on the field.” When they told Joey he’d be throwing the opening pitch his thoughts were “What? Me! I was so nervous.” Watching the video of his pitch, he looked elated, but also calm and collected! Click HERE to see the video of the award ceremony and the first pitch.
Joey is equally passionate about his job with Providence Mount St. Vincent. “I also work at a nursing home in the cafeteria and I serve dinner. I am an employee and also a volunteer. I go in the morning and see all of my friends, then serve dinner at 4 o’clock. I love being there because some of them don’t have family, and I am their family.” Providence has 400 elderly residents and also has a daycare/preschool for 125 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Joey volunteers with the kids as well. “I go down and see the kids and play with them. Sometimes when I go in the room and they see me coming in, they run up to me and give me a big hug!” Joey helps with activities such as Bingo. He describes how he’s blindfolded and reaches in to draw the numbers. One of his favorite activities centers around music – “there’s a lady who plays the guitar and I go for the music and I like to dance.” This is one of the joint activities. “The kids also come up and see the residents and enjoy the guitar lady together.” Joey’s love of music and the people at Providence prompted him to download children’s music on his phone, obtain portable speakers, and ask the boss if he could set it up for the kids! Joey also told me that a documentary on the inter-generational center went viral. Click HERE for a preview of the documentary. When the Australian news picked it up “– they did a news clip and I was on it!” The camera man just kept running into Joey making his way around the facility, meeting with his friends. Click HERE for the Australian news video. Joey’s piece is 14 minutes into the video.
With two jobs and all of this volunteer work, do you have time for other interests?
“I like to ski. I like watching football and play football sometimes. I love to play tennis. I’m a junior member at the Boeing Tennis Center.” He also does taekwondo. “Sometimes on the weekend I can relax.”
What challenges come with having Down Syndrome?
“Some people make assumptions about people with disabilities. I went to Taco Time with a friend and we were having fun hanging out. A family of a child with Down Syndrome stopped by and asked my friend if he was my caregiver.” Joey wants people to know “Even though we have Down Syndrome, don’t treat us differently. We’re all together. We’re all family.”
What would you tell people with Down Syndrome?
Joey shared with us the same encouraging words he gave to the audience at the Transition Fair at Microsoft where he was a speaker: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. I know that we all have our own disabilities but I want you to know that you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it. Believe in yourself!”