Friday, May 4, 2018
By Graig Graziosi
After a winter that seemed to drag on endlessly, Emily Guerriero, 8, wouldn’t stay inside for a second longer.
Playing in the backyard of her Struthers home, Emily introduced each section of her swing set – a slide, a climbing wall, a hammock seat – like an artist presenting her work. She hopped on a swing and her mother, Karen Guerriero, gave her a push.
While she swung back and forth, Emily discussed her fascination with ring tones – of which she said she has at least 100 – and how much she enjoyed playing outside.
Emily’s open and gregarious nature is common among children with Williams Syndrome, and Karen Guerriero hopes to share that bit of information and much more with the community through her annual Williams Syndrome awareness event.
The Williams Syndrome Awareness event is noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Struthers Parkside Church. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature games, raffles, therapy dogs, face painting, a DJ and food available for purchase. All proceeds from the food and raffles will be donated to the Williams Syndrome Association.
Now in its second year, Guerriero started the event to help raise money and awareness for Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by health and cognitive problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities. These conditions occur side by side with strong speaking abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.
Williams Syndrome is somewhat rare, affecting only one in 10,000 people worldwide, or approximately 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States.
Despite the rarity, Guerriero said eight other families with children who have Williams Syndrome attended the event in the past, and that the day of activities has proved to be a useful networking event to connect parents of children with disabilities with medical and support resources.
Emily is enrolled in the third grade at Struthers Elementary, and Guerriero says her teacher and aides have provided her daughter with an excellent learning environment.
“Her teacher, Ms. Martin, bends over backward for her. She’s incredible, and her aide, Mrs. Snyder, is right there with her every day. The school has been wonderful,” Guerriero said.
While Guerriero believes it’s important to raise awareness for Williams Syndrome, she doesn’t want Emily to be defined by the condition.
“Parents of children with disabilities want the same thing for their children as any other parents do,” Guerriero said. “I don’t want her to be defined by her disability. What’s important is she’s bright and caring and she loves people.”
Emily certainly doesn’t act limited by her condition. She’s excited to begin the fourth grade soon, she takes tap dancing lessons and she loves learning jiu-jitsu.
At her home Tuesday, Emily was excited. She was looking forward to dinner that night – chicken wings from La Villa Sports Bar and Grille, her favorite – and to seeing her friends, family and supporters at Saturday’s event.