Scott Township toddler featured on Times Square Jumbotron
Erin Kozy is getting a special birthday gift this year.
On Saturday, when Kozy turns 34, her 14-month-old daughter, Holland, will be featured on a jumbo screen in the heart of Times Square as a part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) annual video presentation. The video is meant to showcase the gifts that people with Down syndrome bring to their communities.
Erin couldn’t be more proud of Holland, who has Trisomy 21/Down syndrome.
“I’m lucky to be her mom,” Erin said. “I don’t even know what life was like before her.”
Holland is a sweet little girl, who also has a silly side, her mom said. While she loves to snuggle, she also enjoys a good laugh. She’s a big fan of “Sesame Street” and always enjoys going to The Miracle League of the South Hills for a game.
The Scott Township mom said doctors first found signs of a ventriculomegaly of the brain, or fluid in the ventricles, during an ultrasound when she was 20 weeks pregnant. Doctors then ran blood tests to determine Holland had Down syndrome.
While there were questions from mom and dad, they loved her immediately.
With the diagnosis and Holland’s journey, the Kozys feel fortunate to live in the Pittsburgh area.
From meeting moms on the same journey through a Facebook group, “Rockin’ My Designer Genes,” to doctors at the Down Syndrome Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, to the help they initially received at St. Clair Hospital, they found a support system to walk them through every step.
The Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh also made sure they never felt alone.
“Holland may crawl later than other babies. She may talk later than other babies, but when she does it, we celebrate,” Erin said.
Holland’s name even has a special meaning. A genetic counselor shared a poem called “Welcome to Holland” that resonated with mom and dad. It talks about the excitement of preparing for a journey to Italy, and when the plane lands, they say, “Welcome to Holland.” You’re in a different place than you planned to be, but it’s still beautiful and still has so much to offer. That’s why Erin said they selected Holland’s name.
“Our hope is that Holland grows up in a world without stereotypes about Down syndrome. Yes, Down syndrome is a part of Holland and who she is, but it’s not all that she is,” dad John said in a message to the Signal Item. “A great way to promote inclusion is to treat Holland like like any other child.”
Holland receives physical, occupational and nutrition therapy three times a week through the Allegheny County Early Intervention program. She has fun with her therapists and works hard, her parents said.
“She loves her family. She loves her little friends,” Erin said.
Each year, the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is hosted in cities across the country. The walk is meant to raise awareness and funds for programs that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families.
The New York City NDSS Buddy Walk is a flagship event for the national program. On the day of the walk, they run a video in Times Square featuring photographs of children with Down syndrome working, playing and learning alongside friends and family.
“The Buddy Walk is such a magical event. It brings so many people together in our community and the unity and excitement is palpable,” said NDSS president and CEO Kandi Pickard in an emailed statement. “I love that this event brings an extraordinary amount of momentum to our community that continues to build throughout the rest of the month propelling us into one of the most important months of the year — October, Down Syndrome Awareness Month.”
Last year, the Kozys, along with family and friends, walked at the annual Pittsburgh event as part of “Heaven Sent Holland’s Team.” The Down Syndrome Association of Pittsburgh’s annual Buddy Walk will be held at 11 a.m. on Oct. 19 at Highmark Stadium.
Erin submitted Holland’s photo, which was selected out of about 3,000 applicants to be part of the video.
“I hope seeing these pictures in Times Square puts a face to these kids with Down syndrome,” she said. “I hope people will see them exactly as who they are. They’re more alike than different.”
Holland, along with mom and dad, will make the trip to the Big Apple for the weekend to participate in the walk and see her face on the jumbo screen.
“I will feel like such a proud mom. Proud of the little girl that she is now and the person that she will become,” Erin said. “She has taught us so much in her short time here and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”