October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and communities across the state are hosting events to celebrate the lives of those living with this specific genetic disorder.

Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, is a genetic disorder, which is caused by a full or partial third copy of the 21st chromosome. It is the most commonly occurring genetic disorder. There are over 400,000 people who have Down syndrome living in the United States. 

Throughout the month, facilities like Son Valley in Ridgeland participate in raising awareness as well as educating the community on Down Syndrome. According to Son Valley's QMRP (Qualified Mental Retardation Professional) Ann Horton, the group celebrates in October with several events.

"We have a fall festival on (Oct. 25) and we invite other organizations to join," Horton said.

"There's a hot air balloon that will come and we do face painting and games, karaoke, and we have a cookout."

Son Valley is a Christian assisted living community for adults with Mental Retardation, ministering to their physical, spiritual, mental, vocational, and recreational needs. Horton said they currently have about five or six residents who are living with Down syndrome.

"The purpose of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, from my perspective, is that we just want to make sure that people know that there are options out there and that you're not alone - there's services available," Horton said.

According to Horton Son Valley hosts a variety of programs geared toward teaching those living with Down syndrome to be self-sufficient. They focus on teaching everyday life skills while also promoting healthy living choices.

"We focus a lot on diet and exercise," Horton said. "We just really try to be sure that they get the medical care and treatment they need. We have one-on-one training with them so that they can learn daily living skills, things that you and I take for granted."

Hope Hollow Ministries in Canton is a Christian ministry dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities by providing unique camping, and retreat experiences.

Executive Director Deborah Edmonson, said their organization will be raising awareness by posting facts about the disability on their Facebook page and website.

"I was just reading some facts the other day and in 1969 the average life span of someone with it was 10 years. Now it's all the way up to the 60s because of medical advances. Our kids are living longer, they're going to high school, they're graduating from high school, and some are even going to college."

She added, "They are getting jobs and paying taxes and I just think so much just still needs to be done for acceptance and awareness for people learning about this disability."

Edmonson has two daughters. Her four-year-old, Taylor, has Down syndrome. She said Taylor has been such a blessing to her family and that raising a child with the disorder actually makes sibling bonds stronger. Edmonson said that she was very disturbed when she recently learned of a high abortion rating for children with Down syndrome and feels that the more educated other are about the topic the more they will see these children are a blessing.

"Ninty percent of mothers who find out their child has Down syndrome abort the baby, and I just want people to spend some time finding out more about it because these kids and adults are amazing," she said. "They're such a blessing."