Flash mob dance raises Down syndrome awareness, including for ‘angel’ and birthday boy, Mikey
Teresa Kuskey Nowak can still vividly remember the look on the nurse’s face.
While getting a routine ultrasound, the nurse had a look of repulsion. Ms. Nowak soon learned her baby would die at birth — possibly without fingers, feet, or even missing an eye.
“To me I felt a beautiful precious soul,” Ms. Nowak wrote recently on her Facebook page.
Mikey was born and was handed to his mother.
“I wanted to look Mikey in his eyes kiss him and tell him how loved he was,” she wrote.
Looking back at her were two beautiful blue eyes. Ms. Nowak was then told her son had a muscle disease known as arthrogryposis that affected all of his limbs and resulted in multiple procedures. To top it all off, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Speaking with the News-Press, Ms. Nowak said the recent post on social media made her feel vulnerable, but it helped her reflect on the blessing Mikey has been.
Celebrating his 24th birthday on Saturday, Mikey is as charismatic as ever. Although he is restricted to his wheelchair, he was the center of attention Thursday evening during a flash mob dance hosted by La Boheme dance group, which Ms. Nowak directs.
In honor of World Down Syndrome Day, the local dance group joined with a small group of special needs people in front of the Metropolitan Paseo Nuevo 4 Cinemas in downtown Santa Barbara. The group swayed their arms side to side and moved their hips to the beat of “Stand by You” by Rachel Platten.
In the middle of it all was Mikey, bouncing around in his wheelchair and loving every second of it.
Ray Nowak, Mikey’s older brother, told the News-Press that Mikey has been waiting for the dance all week. His mother has been calling it “Mikey’s special birthday dance party,” which has led to even more excitement.
“I just feel special that I get to raise an angel like Michael,” Ms. Nowak said.
Mr. Nowak was trying to hold back his tears watching his brother dance along with the others.
“He’s just that guy that everyone who sees him gets so happy and shows him so much love,” Mr. Nowak said. “Everyone who has been in contact with him has been impacted in such a good way.”
Ms. Nowak said her son’s joy is infectious.
“Everything that Mikey has brought has radiated out into the community,” she said. “Between our family, schools, the Santa Barbara community and now other cities — it’s been a really good thing. But not always an easy thing.”
Having been in and out of the hospital over the years for treatment, things could have been far worse, she explained.
“Just when you sort of feel down and sorry for yourself, like wow, I would see a mother with a kid who would never be able to speak with her,” she said.
“Just when you feel bad, just know that someone has it so much worse and you just have to be thankful. I don’t think anyone is given more than we can handle.”
Thursday’s dance was aimed at raising awareness for not only Down Syndrome but for all of the “differently-abled” locally. It gives adults an outlet to have fun and the kids a chance to join in and dance along themselves, Ms. Nowak said.
Ms. Nowak has been teaching lessons in recent weeks for the dance, which she says has been a good support system for all involved.
“These kids were breaking out the moves,” Ms. Nowak said.
“This young adult could hardly speak, but boy could he move.”