The Down Right Fabulous group, whose aim it is to create awareness about children with special needs, especially children with Down syndrome, made sure to give them a good time at their family day.
The family day was held at the Liberty Promenade Indoor Centre on Saturday May 29 and was open to the public.
Founder Melissa van Rooi, 34, whose son Tyrees, 14, has Down syndrome, said parents join her group as they shared in her sentiments. Children with special needs require more opportunities in their community, which is difficult to find, said Ms Van Rooi.
Ms Van Rooi, said the Down Right Fabulous group is not registered yet but the Shumeez Scott Foundation (SSF) will assist them with the registration process and they were also the special guests at the event on Saturday.
Ms Van Rooi was 20 when she fell pregnant with Tyrees. The journey was a very challenging one, she said. Tyrees’s heart progressed a bit slower; he started to walk when he was 3. He had his first heart operation when he was a year old.
“Your heart has four chambers. (Blood to) his heart wasn’t flowing properly and they placed a band on it to hold it together. Tyrees was living his life with one heart valve. He was about three-and-a-half when he had open-heart surgery and his heart was repaired,” said Ms Van Rooi.
He attended Playtime Pals Educare in Rocklands.
“Nobody in Mitchell’s Plain wanted to accommodate my son. They would turn us away because of the special needs aspect. Playtime Pals Educare helped us a lot at the time. I was a young parent but I had the support of my late mother, Desiree Pillay, at the time. We were all just learning on this journey,” said Ms Van Rooi.
She said her late mother paved the way for her to raise Tyrees in her own light and she is grateful for her mother’s guidance.
Principal at Playtime Pals Educare in Rocklands, Caryn Maneveld, said Tyrees started at the age of 3 at their school.
“I remember his mother, Melissa, was so heartbroken because no surrounding educares were able to accept him due to his special needs. My late mom, Desiree Maneveld, took Tyrees in and he became part of our educare family,” said Ms Maneveld.
Tyrees was treated like any other child. The fact that he had special needs never made him any different, she said.
“As challenging as it was, we had no experience. We learnt as time and years went on how to understand and nurture him as if he was our own. Tyrees has become so close to our hearts. Melissa lost her mother and I remember her always turning to my mother for advice on Tyrees and our mothers shared the same name,” she said.
Eventually Tyrees started school and joined their aftercare. “Looking back at how Tyrees has grown throughout the years has made us proud. After Tyrees started at our educare we built on our experience and have taken on more special needs children,” said Ms Maneveld.
“We grew up in Beacon Valley. Tyrees was talking, walking and running later than usual. Through the grace of God, he is well on his way; he is currently at Lentegeur School for Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN). He also runs, plays soccer, and does long jump for Western Province,” said Ms Van Rooi.
Class teacher at Lentegeur School for LSEN, Victoria Kada, said Tyrees was in her class for four years in the foundation phase.
“He is a lovable person, he shares with all his peers. It is a beautiful thing to see. Sports is his number one love; his school shoes didn’t last but he brought extra shoes just to play soccer at school. That is how much he loves soccer.”
They enrolled him for their school soccer team and he was chosen to be part of the Western Province team. Ms Kada went with them to Durban where they participated in soccer at the winter sports games. Tyrees received first prizes for soccer, for the 100 metres and for the 80 metres running and long jump.
“He can work independently. He knows exactly what he wants. If I teach, he will make as if he’s not listening but he completes all his work. We love him to bits,” Ms Kada said.
Ms Van Rooi said at first she was worried about letting Tyrees go away with the school. “I didn’t want him to go but I allowed him to go and he flourished.
“He is a very good son, he is not hyper. He loves educational toys. Everything he has he does on his own. He has his own TikTok account @Melissa3lissa22 which I run for him,” said Ms Van Rooi.
She said the support on Saturday was “awesome”. “We spent time with different children. His followers on TikTok could meet him at the event, which was one of the reasons the event was held as many of his followers wanted to meet him,” she said.
“I want to encourage other parents. Back in the day when parents had a Down syndrome child, parents were shamed for it. We need to educate our children and our community to be kind. There are not many activities for children with special needs. We will keep creating awareness,” said Ms Van Rooi.
Classicman Entertainment and Classic Teens have partnered with them to continue creating awareness, allowing children with special needs to be part of the world of music.
Sharaan Behardien, owner of Classicman Entertainment, said they are partnering with the Down Right Fabulous group to uplift the community and help children with special needs. They were happy to join the group at the event.
“Tyrees, when he picks up the good vibes from people, he will befriend them. You will fall in love with him, he is caring, loving and sweet and a definite entertainer,” she said.
Farber Coach Works in Cape Town donated toys to the children and attended the event.
They bought the children good quality toys, said Ms Van Rooi.
“Thank you to all our sponsors and those who came out to support me, my son and our group. We are grateful for all the love,” said Ms Van Rooi.