Starry 10k walk held to celebrate Wales’s little stars

Charity Seren Dwt is fundraising to deliver gift boxes welcoming babies with Down Syndrome

FAMILY and friends of children with Down Syndrome will soon be setting off on a sponsored 10km walk under the stars across Cardiff.

On World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, Seren Dwt, which means dinky star in Welsh, will be raising money to buy welcome baby boxes for children with the condition.

Run by Laura Thomas, Laura Howard, and Louise Kennedy, who have children with Down Syndrome, Seren Dwt has already presented more than 60 welcome boxes to birthing hospitals across Wales.

They are a celebration of the arrival of a baby with Down Syndrome and a reminder of the joy they can bring to families.

The Seren Dwt welcome baby box. Image: Seren Dwt

Inside a Seren Dwt welcome box parents will find:

  • Information for local charities and groups in South and North Wales, as well as UK wide organisations. 
  • A book called #NoBodyToldMe: The Truth About Down Syndrome from the Positive About Down Syndrome organisation. 
  • A footprint kit for parents whose babies may be in hospital for a long period of time. 
  • A book called Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  • Homemade and knitted gifts like hats or socks for the baby. 
  • Welsh biscuits, tea, and coffee for the parents.

Each box costs around £40 to make.

Why are the boxes important? 

Laura, Laura and Louise’s children all received a postnatal diagnosis and all three mothers were, after giving birth, handed a brown envelope with a leaflet of information on Down Syndrome.

Laura Thomas with her family in Tenby. From left: Steve, 36, Lumi, 6, Arwel, 4 and Laura 35. Image: Laura Thomas.

Laura Thomas, 35, said: “These brown paper envelopes of information about Down Syndrome were really bleak. They were not particularly celebratory, and we personally felt like they were a bit like bereavement papers or appliance guides.

“Having a post-natal diagnosis or an any stage diagnosis will send your world into a little bit of a spin because it is not what any parent is expecting. But you should be able to say let’s just celebrate the baby you have here.

“Your baby is the priority, the Down Syndrome comes second.”

Laura Howard and her family. From left: Charlie, 5, Andrew, 42, Tomos, 3 and Laura, 36. Image: Laura Howard

Laura Howard, 36, said: “When I look back, I just remember trying to find anyone or anybody who could give advice or think positively of the situation. 

“It was very much on me to look and find the information. Whereas if I had just had that box which said first and foremost ‘congratulations you have a beautiful baby and here is the information you need’, I think it would have been a much more beautiful start to Thomas’s life.”

All three mothers said they were simply looking for positivity, hope, and a community.  

Most babies born with Down Syndrome are postnatally diagnosed. In the UK around 90% of pregnancies identified as having Down Syndrome are terminated, according to British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Laura Thomas believes that this is because of historical stigma, an outdated use of language and a lack of knowledge or understanding of life with Down Syndrome. 

“We now know that people with Down Syndrome are lifelong learners. They are no longer put into institutions; they are given the opportunity to learn and be productive members of society,” said Laura Thomas.

Louise Kennedy and her family. From left: Finbar, 8, Mya, 5, Louise, 43 and Paul 47. Image: Louise Kennedy

Louise, 43, said: “We have to battle a little bit more to get input and help but from my point of view, Mya goes to mainstream school, she does kickboxing, she goes swimming and she is learning to talk with the others.

“And you know what? It has taken her a bit longer but we have enjoyed having a baby a bit longer and the milestones have meant a lot more.”

Laura Howard added: “It is a slightly different journey but actually it is a really rewarding journey. It might take your child a little longer to get to those milestones but when they do, you are even more grateful because you know how much hard work has gone into it. It is really joyous – as it is with any child.”

Louise, 43, said: “World Down Syndrome Day is about celebrating that people aren’t all the same but just because you aren’t the same as everyone else it doesn’t mean you are any less a person or any less important.

“The celebration at the Oscars shows that there are people of all abilities out there winning awards, acting, singing, driving, competing in Iron-man competitions and running businesses. There are no limits.”

“It is about celebrating diversity,” said Laura Thomas. 

The 10km charity walk will begin at 6.30pm at Heath hospital and pass landmarks like the Millennium Centre, Cardiff Castle and the Senedd. These landmarks will be lit up yellow and blue to mark World Down Syndrome Day. 

  • The Seren Dwt project has already raised over £1,200 in sponsors on GoFundMe. If you would like to donate click here