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Compassion and Solidarity: Difficult times bring us all together

While this has been a year of successes and celebration in many of our families, it has also been a year of intense sadness for some families in our community. The loss of 13-year-old Austin Sheely and 16-year-old Nathan Vredevelt hit our community hard, and the board of the NWDSA would like to send our deepest condolences to the families of these two boys. We work so hard to help our kids be successful, and the heartbreak in lives cut short is indescribable.

Austin passed away in January due to complications of leukemia treatments. Austin is survived by his parents, Wes and Sunday, and his two brothers, Wes Jr. and Blake. Austin’s mom, Sunday, was instrumental in forming the Northwest Down syndrome parent support group, which went on to become the Northwest Down Syndrome Association.

Nathan died after being struck by two cars outside the Rose Quarter where he was attending a Trailblazer basketball game with family and friends last March. The Trailblazers, in an effort to assist the family with medical bills, hosted a collection at one of their games that generated more than $21,000 in cash donations. Nathan is survived by his parents, John and Pam, and a sister and brother, Jessie and Benjamin. Nathan’s mom, Pam, wrote Angel Behind the Rocking Chair, an inspirational book about raising a child with Down syndrome.