Belle Hall Family Celebrates Life With Down Syndrome Son

Ryan Carlin inched up the slippery playground slide last Friday at Etiwan Park. His 4-year-old brother, Finn, was waiting for him at the top.

When Ryan’s feet slid out from under him, older brother Noah gave him a gentle push from below, and the 7-year-old scrambled to the summit.

Noah’s brotherly nudge during a time of need is emblematic of Ryan’s young life. Thanks to help from his family, friends and community, he is attaining heights undreamed of a decade ago for Down syndrome children,

"Having two brothers like Noah and Finn is probably the best thing that could have happened to Ryan," said mother Renkin Carlin. "They help him have a normal life."

Renkin and her husband, Maj. Kevin Carlin, who flies C-17 military transports all over the world, are active members of the local Down Syndrome Association of the Lowcountry (DSAL). She said having Ryan has been a "blessed event."

"People with Down syndrome show you what pure love is," Renkin said. "And we’ve met the neatest people and had the most wonderful experiences, thanks to our involvement with the Down Syndrome Association."

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that can cause learning and physical difficulties. Decades ago, these children were often consigned to state institutions. Cardiac and pulmonary problems, which are common with Down syndrome, usually went untreated, thereby reducing life expectancy.

But times have changed. Today, Down syndrome children are mainstreamed in schools when possible and are active in extracurricular events. In addition, the medical community now focuses on Down syndrome health challenges earlier than before, which is extending life expectancy.

"Ryan had open-heart surgery when he was 4 ½ months old," Renkin said. "I’m so glad we had him when we did because doctors are able to do so much more for these kids than even a decade ago. There’s definitely been a push by the medical community to fix things earlier because they now realize what a difference that can make. Thanks to that, Ryan’s doing really well."

Ryan is in a regular kindergarten class at Mount Pleasant’s Belle Hall Elementary. He also loves playing baseball on Saturdays in the Miracle League. This West Ashley tee-ball league is comprised of physically and mentally challenged youngsters.

On Sunday, Oct. 2, the Carlins will be back at Etiwan Park on Daniel Island for the 2nd Annual Buddy Walk, which promotes acceptance, awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome. Money raised will go to research, education and advocacy issues on a local and national level.

Registration begins at 2 p.m. and the 1-mile walk will commence at 3 p.m. After the walk, there will be a block party with jump castles, face painting, free food, games and a live band, HELP.

Last year’s first annual Buddy Walk was a resounding success, according to Renkin.

"We prayed we’d get 500 people and 1,300 turned out," she said. "We were blown away by the participation."

For more information on the Buddy Walk, please contact event chair, Daniel Island resident April Vail, at (843) 278-0755 (h), (843) 345-9565 (c) or e-mail:





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