Dear Friends and Friends-To-Be,

I would like to thank all of you who are supporting us in our cause to help young people with Down syndrome.

It is often said that one person can change the world. I have personally seen the difference that one person who has Down syndrome is making. She is my daughter, Emily Ehlen, a 17-year-old who opens hearts, increases faith, teaches the art of happiness, and exemplifies working hard to achieve a goal—her dream to be a dental assistant. As any parent, I could tell you stories about Emily that would warm your heart, stories that would inspire you to try harder yourself, and stories that would make you want to punch several people. Because I have been blessed to be Emily’s father and see her potential and capabilities, I am serving as the president of the Wonderwood Foundation, whose mission is to help individuals with Down syndrome realize their dreams.

This last Thursday I stood on top of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states, with three of my sons and a great-hearted scout troop. During our hike we wore bright pumpkin color t-shirts that said, “Mount Whitney 2014– Hike for Down Syndrome” on the front, and on the back “Helping people with Down syndrome reach new heights.” While on the peak at 14,500 feet, I asked a lady to take a picture of us in our t-shirts, which she did. A man sitting next to her, whom I had never met, read our shirts, asked if we could take donations, and then handed me a $20 dollar bill. Sometimes we look around and see all the bad and wrong which is so prevalent around us. Scott, who handed me this cash, could see that good can be done, and knows that every little bit helps.

Emily has a meaningful life to lead, and as her father I am asking each of you to be a part of her success and the success of the lives of other students like her. It may take a while for Emily and other young people like her to realize their goals in life, but does that matter? If you talk to my mother she says I am still a work in progress, too.

Don’t we often say, “If only I was given the chance I could do that job, or accomplish that challenge”? The fundraising campaign that has just been launched for the Wonderwood Academy is that chance for all of us to help be part of a voice for Emily and other individuals like her. See the campaign details here, and learn more about what we are doing!

Please donate something to this cause. It is not the amount that you donate that matters. By becoming another supporter, you will send the message that this cause is important. After you have donated whatever you can, please send a note to a few of your friends asking them to help us make a different life possible for students with Down syndrome. I know at least one person in this world who will be more successful because of the Wonderwood program. Her name is Emily Ehlen, and she is worth it! I look forward to meeting the other new students of the school, and I know in my heart that they are worth it, too.

Thank you for listening and giving,

Eric Ehlen
President, Wonderwood Foundation