Many of you know Louise Avery as Miss Kitty, the powerhouse behind Megarama Day, but you may not know that Louise has been part of the Down Syndrome Community for over 20 years and during that time, spent approximately 10 years on the DSC Board of Directors. Since Megarama is just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to learn more about her and how she got involved with the DSC.
How did you become involved with the Down Syndrome Community?
It all started in 1997 when my niece Megan, who lives in Lake Oswego, OR, [where I grew up] was born with Down syndrome. I made a vow at Megan’s Baptism I would always be involved in Megan’s life. Eventually I researched the DSC in Seattle and found out the next event was a Potluck. I showed up with Megan on one arm and a bowl of pasta from Mamma Melina’s Ristorante on the other. Thus began my journey with the Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound. I’ll never forget that moment in time nor will I forget our first Buddy Walk we attended in Seattle 20 years ago.
What have been some of your accomplishments with the DSC over the years?
While on the board, one of the accomplishments I am proudest of is the New Parent Packet Project. The program had been neglected so I took charge, rekindled it and brought it back to life. JoAnn Thelin was the co-chair and together with her son Phillip who is now 23 and a self-advocate, made the packets unique and special, and my job was to hand-deliver them to hospitals throughout King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties and beyond. I was very passionate about getting up-to-date information to parents, with the goal of giving them hope and encouragement. Wherever a baby was being born…I was there with packets!
How did you become the organizer of Megarama Day and become “Ms. Kitty?”
For the past 23 years, I have worked in the hotel concierge industry and during that time, I met Uncle Buck, the man who started the M-Bar-C Ranch cowboy program and who gave me the name Ms. Kitty. Through this connection I brought together kids with Ds (specifically my niece Megan) and their families and called it Megarama Day. Approximately 10 years ago, the DSC began hosting it while I continued to manage it. At some point, I thought I would retire from my “Ms Kitty” role once Megan grew out of it but it’s now tradition for Megan and hundreds of kids who will be forever young at heart…including me.
Tell us more about what you’re doing for people with Ds.
I’m really excited this summer to volunteer for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games – with Megan by my side, of course! I will be managing seven ‘Information Stations’ scattered throughout Seattle…specifically helping athletes and their families. It ties in nicely with my background as a concierge! Megan will be given an assignment that she will be responsible for and they love that!
I still spend as much time as I can with Megan. In fact, last year I took her to her Lake Oswego High School Senior Graduation Night Party / Class of 2017. She initially didn’t want to go until Aunt WeeZy (me) offered to take her. I felt she couldn’t miss this milestone event. We made the night even more special by staying out until 2am and checking into a Marriott Hotel, and then she slept in until 1pm the next day! It was an absolute blast! She checked in with the clothes on her back, a tooth-brush, a cell phone and her High School Diploma. What more could a young lady need. Megan called her mom at midnight to surprise her by saying she’s not coming home. My sister loved it.
What is your favorite story of your involvement with the DSC (Talent Show, Megarama, Holiday Party)?
I have always said it is very chic to have a person in your life with Ds. Megan gave me the gift of compassion and unconditional love. She has taught me to be a better person. I value and embrace my connection with all my friends within the Down Syndrome Community and all the awesome people who supported Megan and I for the past 20 years.
I could not imagine my life without my beautiful red-haired niece Megan. A story that sticks out in my mind is the wonderful Alaskan Cruise my sister and her husband gave me as appreciation for being an important part of their daughter’s life. Megan and I sailed the seas sharing our own cabin. What a wonderful experience we had together. Her parents were there too of course. Megan and I went off exploring on many adventures and will continue to do so for many years ahead. Megan will be turning 21 years old this December 8th. The planning has already begun. Another great celebration of life!
If you’re interested in learning more about Megarama Day, check out the website: http://www.megaramaday.com/MegaramaDay/Home.html.
Mark your calendars – this year’s Megarama Day is Saturday, August 11.