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Community & Business

18 January, 2022

Driving awareness for Down Syndrome

A LOCAL Mareeba family-owned business has raised more than $100,000 in six years for Down Syndrome Queensland, a cause very close to their hearts.

By Rhys Thomas

Dimbulah Lions club president Brendan Goldsworthy with Casali's Alex Arena, Marie Villella and son Milan.

Nine-year-old Milan Villella was born with Down Syndrome and due to the support from Down Syndrome Queensland, his mother Marie was able navigate the difficult, new situation she found herself in. 

Milan’s grandfather Alex Arena decided to use his business to help raise money for the Queensland Down Syndrome Association, starting the first Casali’s Down Syndrome Awareness Drive six years ago. 

“The most important thing about the drive isn’t to raise money it’s to raise awareness,” Mr Arena said. 

“People with Down Syndrome don’t want any special treatment, they just want to be treated like normal.” 

The annual October drive starts from the Biboohra shop and heads down to the Daintree and to Bloomfi eld through the CREB track. This year’s event was so popular that Mr Arena was forced to put a 100-person cap on the drive. 

Marie said that without the support of the Queensland Down Syndrome Association she would have struggled putting Milan in school. 

“Milan started school a few years ago and I didn’t know where to send him or what to do but they just gave me a heap of information,” she said. 

“If you’ve got any concerns whatsoever you can email them and they’ll give you some feedback or information to read and things like that – they’re very supportive. 

“It even helped the school understand where we were coming from for Milan to be in a mainstream class.” 

The Dimbulah Lions Club has always supported the drive, with members regularly attending the drive over the year's and now this year, they made a lump sum donation. 

Out of two recent donations made by the club $1000 was given to the RFDS while another $1000 was given to the Casali’s Down Syndrome Awareness Drive 

“There is no point in fundraising and not being able to give the money back out,” Dimbulah Lions president Brendan Goldsworthy said. 

“We have always prided ourselves over the years on giving donations to diff erent groups. 

“Keeping in the Lions spirit of serving the community and giving back when we can.” 

The club has also decided to pledge ongoing support and donations drive in the form of participation and monetary donations.

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