The following is a guest story by Wendy Gendron
When Mary Elizabeth Gendron was born in November 2004, her parents already knew she was born with an extra chromosome. That chromosome was earmarked early in Kerry Gendron’s pregnancy after a Level 2 ultrasound revealed that their 20 week-old daughter had markers indicating Down syndrome.
After receiving the news, Kyle and Kerry Gendron spoke at length with their OB/GYN, who suggested the couple undergo amniocentesis to confirm the ultrasound results. They did, and their unborn daughter was in fact, diagnosed with Down syndrome. Upon receiving the confirmation, Kyle felt ‘it wasn’t a big deal.’ He had had previous experience with individuals with Down syndrome in both his youth and his adult life within his career at Frito Lay. His wife Kerry took the news a little harder given the initial shock, but in the end, their obstetrician simply looked at both of them and said, “It’s just Down syndrome.”
It was that very thoughtful response that set the tone for the Gendron family who are no strangers to challenge. Earlier this year, Kyle was diagnosed with Stage 4 rectal cancer. Kerry has suffered with fibromyalgia as both continue to raise their three children (Matthew, M-E and Thomas), work, and volunteer.
“Some people look at us and think we have it pretty bad,” said Kyle. “And while it may not be easy being us, you can’t look at the negative. If you do, it just makes everything worse. I look a lot at what my grandmother (adult onset diabetes/lost sight/cancer) and mother (20+ year breast cancer survivor) went through. My family just handled their challenges as if they were minor amid a life filled with possibility. If I don’t have the attitude I have, I’d be letting down my mother/grandmother—as much as my wife and children. In my opinion, life is about making the most of what you are given, not what you don’t.”
Kyle and Kerry Gendron continue to give much back to many communities—including their own in Burlington as well as the Down syndrome community. For the last five years, Kyle has volunteered as a photographer for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) —appearing at conferences, events and activities and bringing with him his passion and skill for photography. That support has extended to Morning Travelers, a community playgroup for children with Down syndrome. He not only takes photos at these events, but organizes family portrait shoots so that families can capture beautiful photos for holiday cards or their homes and offices since as most parents realize, it can be challenging to get multiple children to look and smile at the camera all at the same time! Kerry, a music teacher in Burlington, has also extended herself to lead holiday sing-a-longs; a wonderful gift for all the families.
This Saturday, November 3rd, at the American Legion Post #162 in Burlington from 6 to 10 p.m., family and friends of the Gendrons are hosting “Fundraising for Kyle,” a spaghetti dinner and dancing event to raise funds for the family – the head of which is fighting cancer, and the rest, trying to support him in his effort. The evening will be marked with delicious Italian food, dessert, dancing, raffles and entertainment. Tickets are $20 at the door and children 10 and under are free. If you are interested in attending, or donating funds to support the Gendron family, please contact Amanda Johnson at: firstname.lastname@example.org; 401.573.2621.