Sitting across the room from Mona Drolc, you can tell she’s ready to go — and that’s not far from the truth. Mona is the vice president of the Ups and Downs Family Support Group, a nonprofit dedicated to those with Down syndrome as well as their friends and family in western South Dakota.
She serves as the head coach for the Rapid City Special Olympic Young Athlete’s program. She’s an instructor with South Dakota-based STRIDER bikes, teaching kids of all abilities how to ride. And above all, she’s a dedicated mother, fighting to make sure her son, David, has every opportunity to succeed.
Like one in every 700 babies born in the U.S., David has Down syndrome. David also has dreams as big as his smile. He wants to get a job, become financially independent, and maybe one day even move into a house of his own. And he’s blessed with a mom who is fighting to make sure he and so many South Dakotans like him can achieve every one of these goals.
With October marking Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Mona took a trip out to Washington, D.C., to advocate for policies that create more opportunities for David. Her message was clear: Individuals with Down syndrome deserve a more level playing field; they should have access to the same opportunities as their peers.
In 2014, I helped pass legislation, which was signed into law, to move us closer to this goal. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act — or the ABLE Act — tore down many barriers those with Down syndrome face, such as making improvements to the way those with disabilities can save for the future.
But hurdles remain. As a member of the Task Force on Down Syndrome, I’m helping to drive forward the ABLE to Work Act, which seeks to further incentivize employment. More specifically, most ABLE Act beneficiaries face tremendous medical costs over the course of their lifetime. Even with the amplified savings potential under the 2014 legislation, a cap is in place that prevents folks from saving enough to cover their long-term medical costs — let alone allow them to save for things like a home. The ABLE to Work Act would allow those with Down syndrome and other disabilities to save more in a tax-free account, helping secure financial independence.
Fundamentally, I want to create opportunities for South Dakotans from all walks of life to thrive. So, when kids like David have big dreams, I’m going to fight to help them fulfill every ounce of their God-given potential. I’m hopeful the ABLE to Work Act will help them do that.