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" The GVDSS does not recommend or support various therapies, therapists, doctors, practitioners, etc. The only Board-approved partnership is with the Victoria Conservatory of Music for the Music therapy program. The GVDSS' mission is to be a support system for one another. It is left to individuals and families to determine the best services, therapies, doctors, and therapists for their particular needs and that fit their personal philosophies.
Who We Are


1) What is GVDSS

The GVDSS membership includes individuals who have Down syndrome, as well as families, friends, advocates, peers, educators, and medical professionals. Together we provide information and understanding about Down syndrome, act as resources and supports for one another, and create a better understanding of diversity.

The GVDSS members are always busy making our communities a better place to live. We are proud affiliates of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Inclusion and community integration have always been a focus for our membership and, together with other community organizations like Community Living Victoria and Community Options For Children And Families Society, we are proud of the things we have achieved together, especially the ongoing success of our Code of Conduct and the strong advocacy demonstrated from within our membership.

We are also a registered charity (889134979RR0001).


2) Our Mission

The purposes of the Society (est. 1990) are:

a) to provide educational, vocational, and life enhancement assistance to people with Down syndrome;

b) to provide encouragement and support to families of persons with Down syndrome;

c) to enhance public awareness and understanding of Down syndrome; to carry on such other activities as are consistent with the foregoing purposes.


3) Our History

History of the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society

1986 Parents of children with Down syndrome began meeting monthly, forming a support group known as Ups and Downs. They met on the second Saturday of every month at the Queen Alexandra Children's Centre Hospital in the Pearkes Building from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Families brought their children, who played in an adjourning room. Guest speakers were invited to the meetings. Topics of interest included schooling issues, behaviour challenges, health concerns (ex. hearing, dental, speech). Social outings were also offered which included swimming, picnics and parties. Fundraisers were held such as our annual Christmas Craft Fair, garage sales and clothing drives. As well a monthly newsletter was established.

1987 The need for an information package for parents of newborns with Down syndrome was realized. With the co-operation of the Province of B.C. and Ministry of Health, this newpackage known as Ups and Down Syndrome: A New Parent Resource was produced and distributed to all the maternity hospitals throughout B.C.

1989 We hosted the 2nd National Canadian Down Syndrome Society Conference. It was called Preparing for the Year 2000 and was held at the University of Victoria on July 13 - 15. Approximately 500 delegates from across the country attended. Speakers included Siegfried Preschel author of A Parent's Guide to Down Syndrome: Toward a Brighter Future

1990 We became incorporated as the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society.

1998 The G.V.D.S.S. produced the revised parent package, renaming it Ups and Downs: An Information Package from Parents of Children with Down Syndrome. It included an information booklet from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, a recommended reading list, various information brochures and a special booklet called "Messages from the Heart" which included personal accounts from our members and photos of our children. These words of encouragement and support proved to be very helpful to new parents. This parent package was distributed to maternity hospitals and support groups throughout B.C. The C.D.S.S. was given permission to use a slightly altered version of the parent packages for distribution throughout Canada.

1999 May 20 - 22 of this year, we hosted the 11th National Canadian Down Syndrome Society Conference in Victoria. It was called Growing  Together and 500 delegates attended. Plenary/keynote speakers included Andrea Friedman and Marjorie Friedman, Miles Ramsay and Dr. Len Leshin. Thanks for the hard work of all of our members it was another very successful conference hosted in Victoria.

2000  Speakers from our group traveled to the World Down Syndrome Congress in Sydney, Australia, to promote a new revised protocol brochure from the G.V.D.S.S. called Breaking the News.

2001 Working with the local medical community, we revise hospital policy to include up to date information and guidelines for doctors and health care professionals sharing the news to families who have a child with Down syndrome.

2002 to be updated

2003 to be updated

2004 The Pajama Party for Kids was held in the gymnasium at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. Started as a fundraiser to match funds granted to the Music Therapy Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music (V.C.M.) for children with Down syndrome, the event raised community awareness and was a success with the contributions of G.V.D.S.S. members, local community groups, businesses and celebrities as well as municipal emergency teams. In the fall of 2004 music therapy classes for children and youth (ages 18 months - 18 years old) started at the V.C.M. under the guidance of Dr. Johanne Brodeur, Department Head for the Music Therapy Department

2005 Drawing close to 700 people, the second Pajama Party for Kids sponsored by the G.V.D.S.S. took place in the massive tennis court area at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. Our 14th annual craft fair became known as the G.V.D.S.S. Winter Wonderland Craft Fair and it moved from its traditional location in Cordova Bay to the west shore's brand new Eagle Ridge Community Centre. The G.V.D.S.S.

2006 We officially launch our website, (now replaced by, to provide information about Down syndrome and update members on current activities. The website Across the water and close to home, the 9th World Down Syndrome Congress is held and 15 families, including two self-advocates sponsored by the G.V.D.S.S., attend. Families from throughout British Columbia and Vancouver Island are invited to the first G.V.D.S.S. Rathtrevor Camping Weekend.

2007 Participated in the Vancouver Island Baby Fair (community awareness events)

2008 June of this year the G.V.D.S.S. Music Therapy program marks the end of its 4th year with the graduation of four of the first Under Six students moving up to the next level. The 17th Annual GVDSS Winter Wonderland Craft Fair celebrates its third year at the Eagle Ridge Community Centre.

2009 Heading into its 6th year, the G.V.D.S.S. Music Therapy program adds to their support from Ronald McDonald House Charities and Success with Six with Santas Anonymous. We participated in the Vancouver Island Baby Fair. Through a generous donation from GJ Photo/Look Matters, the GVDSS had a new logo created, as well as a new website. Discussions about group speech therapy program (in conjunction with Little Steps Therapy Services) were underway as well as disucssions with the Ministry to see if at-home dollars could be unbundled and be directed to groups speech therapy.

2010 In January, the GVDSS celebrated its 20th anniversary since being incorporated. Our revamped website was launched.

2013 Website was moved to

2014 In November, GVDSS hosted a Buddy Walk to help raise awareness of Down Syndrome to coincide with National Down Syndrome. A huge success, the Buddy Walk brought out over 200 family members and friends and raised funds to support G.V.D.S.S programs.

2015 GVDSS celebrated its 25th anniversary since being incorporated. The adult social group was kicked off with monthly outings and events to foster connections among adults with Down Syndrome. The UPs Club and Baby UPs Club provided regular opportunities for newer DS families to get together to share their experiences. The GVDSS Facebook page was launched to serve as the primary means for connecting the membership.

2016 In October, GVDSS hosted a one day conference in partnership with the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, funded in part by a CDSS grant: Embracing Success - Educating Students with Down Syndrome. This conference was attended by over 100 educators, special education assistants, support staff and members covering a wide range of topics geared towards improving educational opportunities for our school aged members. In November, we hosted our second annual GO21 fundraising walk and a first teen social get together to complement the programs being offered for young children and self advocates by GVDSS.

2017 GVDSS updated its Constiution and Bylaws in order to bring them in line with new BC Societies Act requirements. In October, GVDSS hosted our second Education Conference with a focus on Reading Comprehension and Numeracy, partnering once again with the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. During Canadian Down Syndrome Week, CTV News ran a series of features on three GVDSS families spanning different age groups and experiences to highlight both the challenges and exceptional abilities of persons with Down Syndrome. Later in the fall, we sponsored a workshop for parents on Sexuality.


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