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Nicole J. Phillips, Published October 04 2013

Kindness Is Contagious: Man’s joy for life is a gift for those who meet him

I have a special friend who comes to nearly every Bison basketball game. I can always count on him to be waiting near the locker room to greet the players, but he’ll leave his post when he sees me, and that’s always my favorite part of the night. He wraps his arms around me in a hug that allows me to feel his love all the way down to my toes.

His name is Michael, and he is a 31-year-old living with Down syndrome. He lives with his parents, who adore the Bison almost as much as Michael. Almost, but not quite.

Michael got the chance to go on a summer vacation this year to visit his sister, Amy, who lives in New York City. His mom emailed me so I could hear all about the big trip.

“Michael was so excited to see his sister, and she had some surprises planned for him and us. The last day we were able to spend the morning in the studio of ‘Good Morning America,’ watching the show.

“Amy had written a sweet story to GMA about her brother coming to NYC. They responded and wanted to help his sister make his day special.

“We had an awesome morning watching Michael meet Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer and George Stephanopoulos. Everyone was so kind and it was a great morning. Michael got a tour of the studio and came home with his GMA mug and T-shirt. He was so excited!”

This is what Amy wrote about her visit from Michael:

“After a weekend full of Michael, I am reminded about human emotions and our capacity to feel, mostly because Michael succeeds at feeling every single human emotion to its fullest within the span of a day, every day.

“I keep seeing articles about understanding introverts, and now I am seeing articles about understanding extroverts ... We are all delicate, and we are all strong, and we are all brave, and we all get scared. The best we can do is hope for the best in every encounter we have and treat everyone kindly. It is what Michael does and things seem to work out well for him.”

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month. One in every 691 babies is born with the disease.

Fargo is kicking off the month by having its first Buddy Walk today inside Scheels Arena in South Fargo. Registration starts at 9, and the one-mile walk starts at 10. Everyone is welcome to attend the walk and other activities for families.

Up with Downs is a group that serves families in Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding areas. The group strives to educate the public and put on events for parents, friends, relatives and caregivers of individuals with Down syndrome. The members love to meet with new families to provide support and resources. You can contact the group at www.UpWith

DownsFargo.com.

I hope you have a friend like Michael who reminds you to celebrate each moment of each day and can hug like nobody’s business.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.