Raising hope for those with Down syndrome

Research holds the promise of transforming the lives of those with Down syndrome, and the Watson family of Flower Mound is helping the cause by hosting the 2nd Annual Research Down Syndrome Charity Golf Classic and other local events this month.

Paul Watson, a Southwest Airlines pilot, and Patty Watson, a Bank of America technology executive, have five children ranging in age from 17 to 7.  Their son Nathan, 9, faces the challenges of living with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is the result of an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, explains Paul Watson.

“This means there is an extra set of the hundreds of genes on this chromosome — which leads to imbalanced brain chemistry,” he said.  “This imbalance impairs memory, learning and communication and also leads to cognitive decline that is related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

He also points out that Down syndrome is the most frequently occurring chromosomal abnormality, with an incidence of about one of every 700 live births.  Currently, there are an estimated 3 million people with Down syndrome worldwide, including 400,000 in the United States.

“Today, we are not talking about ‘curing’ Down syndrome,” Watson continues.  “We are talking about developing medical treatments, including drugs, that address specific chemical imbalances and neuron dysfunction in the brain of an individual with DS.  Already, treatments administered to mice bread with DS have resulted in the restoration of near normal cognitive function,” he adds.  “With human clinical trials expected to begin in the near future, we are on the cusp of transforming possibilities for people who live with Down syndrome.”

On Thurs., June 16, 2011, the 2nd annual Research Down Syndrome Golf Classic, an 18-hole, four-person scramble, will be held at the Bridlewood Golf Club in Flower Mound

“U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions is honorary chairman,” said Paul Watson. “Gov. Rick Perry and State Rep. Tan Parker are honorary sponsors.”

U.S. Rep. Sessions says that he is proud to be associated with an event that promotes leading-edge research and public policies that would enhance the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome.

“As the father of a young man with Down syndrome, I understand firsthand the importance of providing resources and opportunities for individuals with special needs,” he says.  “It is my hope that we may all work together to build an even brighter future for all individuals with Down syndrome by empowering them to achieve and reach their maximum potential.”

Having the support of Gov. Perry is also a plus for the Watsons.

“Efforts like the 2nd Annual Research Down Syndrome Golf Classic help raise awareness and funds to further advance the development of ground-breaking medical therapies,’ said Gov. Perry.

“I encourage all Texans to learn more about Down syndrome and to support the families, communities and researchers who are working to ensure the best for Texans with Down syndrome.”

The Watsons are confident that this year’s event is building on the success of the inaugural tournament.

“Our first event featured 124 golfers, including 25 retired sports celebrities, who helped raise $66,000 for Down syndrome research,” said Patty Watson.

“This year, in addition to morning golf and the afternoon tournament, there will be a cocktail reception with live and silent auctions the evening before the tournament.  Tournament day will feature a Down syndrome community roundtable, research panel discussion and an awards banquet.”

Again this year, the Research Down Syndrome Foundation of suburban Chicago (RDS) will oversee the distribution of tournament proceeds.

“Our mission is to expand and enhance life opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome by supporting increased awareness of, and funding for, Down syndrome cognitive research,” says Bob Schoen, Ph.D., RDS president.  “This research seeks to identify the basis of intellectual impairments associated with Down syndrome and the development of safe and effective drug therapies to treat these cognitive difficulties.”

Patty Watson says that Nathan definitely thinks about his future and wants to be a fireman, or even an astronaut.

“Although he works harder than any kid we know, we are well aware of the limits he faces because of his brain chemistry,” she acknowledges.  “Those limits exist even with the best support and advocacy we can possibly offer.  However, results of research could significantly change this equation.

“Please join us in this all-important journey to help Nathan and his friends who live with Down syndrome realize their dreams.”

For more information, go to:

–  2nd Annual Research Down Syndrome Golf Classic and related events – http://www.nathanrds.com/

–  Research Down Syndrome Foundation – http://researchds.org/

–  Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation – http://www.dsrtf.org/


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