When Utah nurse Melody Forsyth learned her baby-to-be had Down syndrome, she and her family thought it would change their lives. And it did - for the better. Ruby, now six, has led the Forsyth family into a world of outdoor recreation, including skiing. Watching Ruby ride the Chickadee lift at Snowbird and ski down with her Wasatch Adaptive Sports guide is a life-changing experience seeing the joy that skiing brings to this young girl and her family.
Wasatch Adaptive Sports instructor Catherine Peterson heads Ruby on a new adventure riding the Chickadee chairlift at Snowbird. (Tom Kelly)
Before Ruby was born, Melody, her husband Vic, and three children weren’t exactly outdoor enthusiasts. But upon learning her soon-to-be-born Ruby would have Down syndrome, the family felt they would lose the future possibility for outdoor recreation. So with Melody pregnant, the family took off into mother nature, visiting parks, hiking and exploring Utah’s mountains and deserts.
When Ruby was born a few months later, they never stopped. Today, they’re often tabbed as Utah’s ‘Adventure Family,’ on a mission to explore every national park in America and finding a passion for outdoor adventure around Ruby.
Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that impacts an estimated one in 700 newborns in America. Our genes are responsible for inherited traits, which are carried in chromosomes. Normally, each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Those with Down syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. The impact of that varies from individual to individual.
At first blush, you might think Down syndrome would be limiting. But when you meet Ruby you quickly learn that she is a young girl on a mission! At just six, she navigates the rental shop with ease and knows exactly where she wants to stand in the bus to get the best view. One can only imagine what she’ll experience when she works her way up to the Snowbird tram!
Ruby’s genesis to snow was a product of the newfound active lifestyle of her family, led by Melody. But it also came to fruition through Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird, a program that has been introducing aspiring outdoor enthusiasts since 1977. According to program director Eileen May-West, children with Down syndrome are regular participants in the program.
What’s so heartwarming about Ruby’s tale is that it isn’t just HER story. It’s the story of an entire family and about the love they have been spreading to motivate others. What Melody thought would be a story of limitations, actually turned out to be a story of possibilities and access. It’s a story about the opportunities we all have as humans to enjoy our world.
Ruby takes a ride on the magic carpet on Chickadee at Snowbird. (Tom Kelly)
When you see the smile on Ruby’s face as she comes tearing down Chickadee, you are reminded of the joy that sliding on snow brings to all of us.
Here’s a preview of the conversations. Listen in to the full Last Chair podcast to learn more.
Eileen May-West, Program Director for Wasatch Adaptive Sports.
Eileen May-West, Wasatch Adaptive Sports
You really cover a wide gamut here at Wasatch Adaptive Sports, don’t you?
Our youngest student since I've been here was two and our oldest is 98. Yah, we serve anyone with an adaptive need. A lot of times that is physical mobility, requiring adaptive equipment. But a lot of times it's someone with Down's syndrome or autism who just needs some specialized instruction or a big bag of tricks from their instructor to have them find success in skiing. We have a lot of students with Down syndrome and people of all abilities, ages and really scenarios that we teach to ski. Ruby is one of our family here and we're happy to have her.
With that wide range of individuals, what are the common motivators?
I think the number one tool any instructor, especially in adaptive, can have is fun and being able to know your student. So it’s getting to know Ruby - what she likes, whether it's Frozen or whatever characters are fun things that motivate her. And at the end of the day, just making sure whatever she did, whether it was straight gliding down the magic carpet that she wants to come back and do more, and over time it might take longer, but we can really usually get anyone there.
How important a role do parents play?
A lot of times parents are involved, just like Melody is, especially with kids. You know, no one knows that kid better than their parents do. So we definitely lean on them to help us, give us tips that they've already figured out over six and seven years. But, at the end of the day, the biggest feedback is smiling. And if we're moving away from smiling, we go back to where we can find it.
At the end of the day, the biggest feedback is smiling.
What motivates you and your instructors?
It's the joy we all feel on the mountain. Everyone on our staff and within our organization feels that joy. It's added so much to my life and everyone should have the opportunity to access that. And that's really the biggest piece of meaning for me is every single person should be able to enjoy why people live in Utah.
So, Ruby looks like she’s pretty comfortable on skis?
Yeah, she's been doing awesome. This is her second season with Wasatch Adaptive and she's been doing just awesome and blossoming into a little skier.
What was your perception when you heard that your unborn child had Down syndrome?
I didn't know anybody with Down syndrome. Our perception was that we wouldn't be able to do anything as a family. I thought that Down syndrome would prevent us from doing anything fun or going anywhere, that we would be stuck at home with a child that had a disability. Obviously, you know, everything has changed for us. It changed our whole outlook on life. It changed our whole lifestyle. It changed the way we live, the way we plan family activities, the way we spend time as a family. It was just completely a total mind shift for us.
How does Down syndrome impact Ruby?
Everyone with Down syndrome is different. Somebody once said, ‘if you know somebody with Down syndrome, you know, one person with Down syndrome because there's just a wide difference in their abilities. Ruby is still non-verbal at this time, meaning she makes noises, she can make sounds. She has a couple of words. Luckily, one of her words is mom. So she will say mom, but really doesn't communicate any other way except through a communication device that she will use. She can point to pictures. As a family, we kind of just know what she wants. We know she'll go get it, but she can't actually communicate.
How did she get started skiing?
I just saw that there were programs like Wasatch Adaptive for people with disabilities and we'd already started doing other activities where we were surprised by what she was able to do. So it was kind of like, ‘well, why stop there?’ Let's try this out just because we'd heard really good things from other people that had been involved or had been teachers here involved with the program at one point in their life. And they're like, It's such an amazing program. And they just really get the kids. They work with them so well that it was like, well, let's give it a try. Let's see how she does.
With your family’s newfound love of the outdoors, Utah is a pretty great place to be, isn’t it?
We travel all over the state because there are just so many cool things to do as a family. You can put in a ton of activity level or just have fun exploring. You're just letting kids hang out, just doing whatever they're doing. There are so many things for families to be able to do and get out there and spend time together. That's our bonding, that's our activity - what we plan together as a family. It brings us together.
Melody, as a mom, what has Ruby brought to your life and that of your family?
She's made me a stronger person and has opened the world to me. She has taught me to not put limits on myself as a plus size person ... I think I still … it's like, that's why I didn't ski either, because I'm like, fat people don't ski because that was the narrative. I told myself, ‘that's not for me. People my size don't do this.’ And so as I saw her doing it, I'm like, ‘well, I don't want her to grow up feeling that way or ever thinking, ‘oh, because I have Down syndrome, I can't do this.’ I want her to try things, see if she likes it, see if she can do it. Because she set that example for me, I'm like, ‘well, now, I can't set these limits on myself and I need to push myself as well. Let's give it a try.’
Ruby’s eyes lit up as she rode the Chickadee lift and gazed out across the valley to Mt. Superior. A smile crossed the face of her instructor Catherine from Wasatch Adaptive Sports. But, most of all, joy emanated from the heart of Melody, Ruby’s mom, down below thinking about the joy that skiing - and all that Ruby does - has brought to their family.
Listen in to Last Chair to hear more about Ruby and how she’s changing not only her life but all those around her.
Wasatch Adaptive Sports
Since 1977, Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird has been bringing the joy of skiing and snowboarding to children, adults and veterans - and their families! Its programs empower students to achieve their unique goals in recreation while maximizing independence and providing access to the physical, mental, and social benefits associated with movement. Its programs require no initial fees, with full or partial scholarships available for those in need. Wasatch Adaptive Sports is based in Creekside at Snowbird, with a summer program based out of Murray.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| So I love these on location podcasts and we're at Snowbird today and we're going to head out in a little bit for a ski lesson with Wasatch Adaptive. And we have a great program for you today. Ruby is a young girl from Salt Lake City with Down Syndrome. She's been part of the Wasatch Adaptive program here at Snowbird for a few years and just really has a blast out there skiing and. Eileen, you're the program director, and thank you so much for joining us on Last Chair.
Eileen May-West |00:00:31| I'm excited to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:32| So, first of all, before we get into the details of what we're going to see out there with Ruby today, just give us a little bit of background on yourself and how you got into this role at Wasatch Adaptive.
Eileen May-West |00:00:41| Sure, it wasn't a straight path, but I've been with Wasatch now for five years, and I started as an instructor six years ago and stepped into more of a management leadership role soon after that. I've been working in adaptive sports for about ten years, starting out on the East Coast.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:01| And give folks a little bit of an idea of what Wasatch Adaptive does. And by the way, it's tucked away in a little corner over here at Creekside. And I think a lot of us come to snowboard every day and we're up on the mountain and we're having a good time and don't know about this program, but it's been around here for a long time.
Eileen May-West |00:01:16| Yeah, we're looking at about 45 years. 1977 is when the program started.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:23| And how did it start?
Eileen May-West |00:01:24| Our founder, Peter Mandler, who still teaches for us, he's still around and a great part of our program. He was a ski instructor here at Snowbird and had a passion for bringing kids skiing and into the outdoors who wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity. So he pitched the idea to Junior and Jerry here at the ski school, and they were all for it. Dick Bass was super supportive and to this day we couldn't do what we do without Snowbird support.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:51| Now, I think a lot of us, when we think about adaptive programs and I'm very familiar living in Park City with the National Ability Center, another program somewhat similar to what you do here at Snowbird. But we think of maybe some stereotypical things of helping people understand how to use a mono ski or how to use outriggers. But you really cover a wide gamut of youth and adults that you introduced to skiing and snowboarding.
Eileen May-West |00:02:18| Absolutely. Our youngest student since I've been here was two and our oldest is 98. And it … yeah, we serve anyone with an adaptive need. So a lot of times that is physical mobility, requiring adaptive equipment, but a lot of times it's someone with Down syndrome or autism who just needs some specialized instruction or a big bag of tricks from their instructor to have them find success in skiing.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:42| So Ruby, who we are going to ski with, has Down syndrome and we're going to ski with her mother, Melody. Melody is actually a writer for Ski Utah, and has told the story of her daughter. How unusual is it to have someone with Down syndrome learning how to ski or snowboard.
Eileen May-West |00:02:59| In our world? Not unusual at all. We have a lot of students with Down syndrome and people of all abilities, ages and really scenarios that we teach to ski. And Ruby is one of our family here and we're happy to have her.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:15| You know, I know there's not one one solution fits all. But what are some of the techniques or tools that you have in your tool kit to help someone like Ruby to enjoy the sport as we would?
Eileen May-West |00:03:28| I think the number one tool any instructor, especially in adaptive can have is fun and being able to know your student. So getting to know Ruby what she likes, whether it's frozen or whatever characters are fun things that motivate her. And at the end of the day, just making sure whatever she did, whether it was straight gliding down the magic carpet that she wants to come back and do more, and over time it might take longer, but we can really usually get anyone there.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:58| When someone comes to your program. Is there an evaluation process initially to figure out what's the best way to introduce them to the sport?
Eileen May-West |00:04:07| Yeah, I would say it's a conversation and a get to know you that's disguised as that. We set up our registration process to make sure everyone has to call us before they can get out and ski so we can get to know them what their goals and expectations are and then what they might be dealing with, whether physically or cognitively or or even just anxiety wise to make sure that when they get here, our instructor knows a little bit of background but then is able to make the best decisions relative to instructing or terrain or equipment.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:41| So for someone with Down syndrome, someone like Ruby, what's the feedback mechanism from the student back to the instructor?
Eileen May-West |00:04:49| Sometimes it's laughs and giggles, sometimes it screams and cries.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:54| Hopefully more on the laugh side.
Eileen May-West |00:04:56| Yeah, usually we end up there and then a lot of times parents are involved, just like Melody is, especially with. kids. You know, no one knows that kid better than their parent does. And so we definitely lean on them to help us, you know, give us tips that they've already figured out over six and seven years. But at the end of the day, the biggest feedback is smiling. And if we're moving away from smiling, we go back to where we can find it.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:19| For many of us who take it second nature to just be up on the mountain and not being challenged by abilities other than maybe occasionally going down a double black diamond that we maybe shouldn't have done. But here there are more challenges. So I would imagine that the satisfaction level for accomplishment is really high in your students.
Eileen May-West |00:05:48| Yeah. I mean, one thing that we see as a major part of our job is just breaking down all the barriers that exist even before they get here. So cost is a big one. Over 80% of our students participate on scholarship. We try to make sure. How much does it cost? Is never a gatekeeper question for someone to get up here. And then from there, it just goes to the accessibility of our office parking. We have designated parking, which makes a huge difference. And then just making sure once they're on the hill that they feel really supported and safe with our program.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:21| Your program has been around for 45 years, and you mentioned that you have the ability to scholarship students. How do you raise how do you raise money?
Eileen May-West |00:06:32| By all different means. But we are hugely supported by individual donors, companies, corporations that are connected to our mission, you know, feel like it's a great thing to contribute to. We also run a few events during the year that contribute. One being the Steve Young Ski Classic that happened just last week, actually. And then we also do a lot of grant writing. We have a great development team that targets different grants and corporations that are able to contribute as well.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:02| The you had mentioned you started your career as an instructor. Now you're the program director, just kind of wearing the instructor's hat. What's the satisfaction that the instructors get out of introducing people with challenges to the sport?
Eileen May-West |00:07:18| It's so high. There are so many great moments of really getting to see a student do something that they never thought they could do, which is really exciting. And it's challenging every single lesson. Never mind. Day is completely different. You never know what you're going to get. And we always say our instructors are the most adaptive things about our program and their ability to just bounce from one person to the next and discipline to the next and communication style. It keeps you on your toes. It can be exhausting, but the reward at the end of the day is really, really high.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:54| How do you recruit instructors?
Eileen May-West |00:07:57| Word of mouth, mostly.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:00| Looking for special skills or just a passion for engaging in this.
Eileen May-West |00:08:04| Yeah, I think we're always looking for people that have hard skills, obviously, that can teach skiing, can teach snowboarding, or we do cycling in the summer as well. But more importantly are, like I said, someone who's adaptable, who loves a challenge, who's really willing to put in the thought to find success for someone else. There's a huge selfless component about it. But I think those soft skills of motivation and really craving challenges but also loving to see the best in other people are things you can't teach once they get here. So if we can find it when we hire them, that's great.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:39| So we're at Creekside now. Where are we going to head with Ruby today?
Eileen May-West |00:08:42| So Ruby will be getting her skis and heading up to Chickadee. Chickadee Bowl and Chickadee lift to get on the snow.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:51| One last thing. You've been involved with this for a number of years now. And, you know, as you think to this, what does it mean to you and your heart to be involved in a program like this at Wasatch Sports and provide opportunities for young skiers like Ruby to feel the same joy that all of us feel when we get up on the mountain?
Eileen May-West |00:09:12| Well, I think you said it right there. It's the joy we all feel on the mountain. I think everyone on our staff and within our organization feels that joy. It's added so much to my life and really everyone should have the opportunity to access that. And that's really the biggest piece of meaning for me is every single person should be able to enjoy why people live in Utah.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:36| You look out on the mountain and it's a beautiful day. There's fresh snow out there and so anxious to get out there. Eileen May West, program director here at Wasatch Adaptive Sports, thanks so much for joining us on Last Chair. Let's get out on the Hill.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:53| Eileen, thank you very much for that great introduction to Wasatch Adaptive Sports. We are here at Snowbird today. It is a beautiful day. Fresh snow has fallen over the last 24 hours. You can see it up in the trees. There's beautiful clouds hanging over the mountain right now. Now, for those of you extreme folks, we are not going up the tram today. We are not dropping into Mineral Basin or down into the Gad Chutes. We are here today on Chickadee. That's right. We're at Chickadee, the beginners right at the bottom of Snowbird, where lots of careers in skiing actually begin. It's so much fun to watch the kids out here today. As we record this episode today, it is March 21st, three, 21, 22, and that is National Down Syndrome Day. And we're going to talk about Down syndrome today. And really more than that, not so much Down syndrome, but just talk about a transformation that a family has had in the sport of skiing. And with me today, Melody Forsyth. And Melody, thank you so much for joining us here today at Snowbird.
Melody Forsyth: |00:10:54| Oh, thanks so much for having us. We're excited to share.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:57| So as we sit here at the bottom of Chickadee, we're looking up the hill and Catherine from Wasatch Adaptive Sports is working with Ruby. And here we are. Ruby is six years old, Down syndrome, and she's out here skiing at Snowbird today.
Melody Forsyth: |00:11:11| Yeah, she's been doing awesome. This is her second season with Wasatch Adaptive and she's been doing just awesome and blossoming into a little skier.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:20| So I want to hear a little bit about your family's story. But first of all, let's go back in time before Ruby was born six years ago, you weren't a skier yourself?
Melody Forsyth: |00:11:30| Oh, no. I was not a skier. My husband tried a couple of times and I'm like, not for me. So I was like, have a good day by yourself. But yeah, I was not a skier. I didn't do a whole lot of, you know, an occasional hike every year or so, but not really an outdoor type family.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:46| But you were living here in Utah, right?
Melody Forsyth: |00:11:47| Yeah, we lived here in Utah, yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:49| So you had a family already and Ruby came along and you found out before she was born that she had Down syndrome. First of all, tell us a little bit about Down syndrome, what it is and how it impacts those who have it.
Melody Forsyth: |00:12:05| So Down syndrome is a chromosome ... it's just different. And they have a third chromosome, a third copy on the 21st chromosome, which typically you only have two. So it's an extra chromosome. We call it the special one. It's what makes her extra special because that extra chromosome but within it does usually affect all the body systems in some way. And so there are some, you know, medical and cognitive differences in their development. And she you know, we found out just because I didn't know anybody with Down syndrome, our perception was that we wouldn't be able to do anything as a family. Like I thought we were going to be stuck at home all the time and that the Down syndrome would prevent us from doing anything fun or going anywhere, that we would be stuck at home with a child that had a disability. And so it was kind of like that's how we originally thought. And obviously, you know, everything has changed for us.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:06| It's fascinating for me. I mean, I studied a little bit and we've talked a few times and I've become familiar with Ruby, but it really did change, not just for Ruby, but it changed for your whole family.
Melody Forsyth: |00:13:16| Yeah, it did. It changed our whole outlook on life. It changed our whole lifestyle. It changed the way we live, the way we, you know, plan family activities, the way we spend time as a family. Like all those, it's just completely … it's a total mind shift for us.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:33| We'll get back to skiing in just a minute, but I know that you also have a goal as a family of visiting all the national parks here in Utah, which is quite a few.
Melody Forsyth: |00:13:39| Yeah. So we've hit the ones in Utah. We're trying to do all of them in the whole US. And currently we're at 30, so we've hit 30 since Ruby's been born of all the national parks.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:51| That is really amazing. Now what is Ruby's level of understanding and how do you communicate with her?
Melody Forsyth: |00:14:01| So, I mean, everyone with Down syndrome is different. So like I said, somebody once said, you know, if you know somebody with Down syndrome, you know, one person with Down syndrome because there's just a wide difference in their abilities. Ruby is still non-verbal at this time, meaning she makes noises, she can make sounds. She has a couple of words. Luckily, one of her words is mom. So she will say mom, but really doesn't can't communicate any other way except through a communication device that she will use. She can point to pictures. As a family, we kind of just, you know, know what she wants. We know she'll go get it, but she can't actually communicate. But she understands because, you know, tested it out like she understands. We talk to her just like we would talk to any other six year olds because she really does understand and grasp a lot of what we're saying.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:54| So she started skiing, I think, when she was five years old, right?
Melody Forsyth: |00:14:58| Yes.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:58| What prompted you to get her into skiing? You don't. You have a family history. And what was it that really triggered? Hey, we should take Ruby skiing.
Melody Forsyth: |00:15:06| Well, I just saw that there were programs like Wasatch Adaptive for people with disabilities and we'd already like started doing other activities where we were surprised by what she was able to do. So it was kind of like, Well, why stop there, let's try this out just because we'd heard really good things from other people that had been involved or had been teachers here involved with the program at one point in their life. And they're like, It's such an amazing program. And they just really get the kids. They work with them so well that it was like, well, let's give it a try. Let's see how she does.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:40| So you just called them up and said, Hey, can I bring my daughter up?
Melody Forsyth: |00:15:42| Yeah. I said, Hey, can ... what do we need to do to get our lessons or try it out? And they sent me all the stuff and with scheduling and then this, this season, same thing we just called about like, hey, we're ready to schedule Ruby. They're like, okay, it's great.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:55| Cool. Let's go back to that very first lesson. She's five years old. You're up here probably on 60. Never been on snow like this. What was that experience like? Her.
Melody Forsyth: |00:16:05| I was just shocked because I was like, I don't think this is going to go well because just wasn't I just didn't know how well she would. I was worried about the cold. I was worried about, like, her balance, about being able to stand on the skis or anything like that. But she just proved me. Like, we just kind of, like, set her along and she just goes along, goes with the flow. And it was like, all right, no big deal.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:30| We're looking out at Ruby right now. She's taking a break from her lesson. And, Ruby, it looks like you're having fun today. Yeah, I think that's a yes. Yeah.
Melody Forsyth: |00:16:38| Do you want a snack? Yes, that's what she … Yeah, she's pointing at a snack.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:44| Yeah. It's a universal symbol for snacks, so. Melody's just getting, you know, some snacks out of the bag here.
Melody Forsyth: |00:16:52| She knows that mom has snacks in the bag.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:54| She's having a great time out here on Chickadee. Wasatch Adaptive Sports. As Eileen told us earlier, it's been around since 1977 providing opportunities for skiers and snowboarders of all kinds out here at Snowbird. It's a great program. Ruby's just taking a little snack break here. It's a nice day here at Snowbird today. I'd actually might make a few turns.
Melody Forsyth: |00:17:21| Just one. Just one. You only need one off. There you can eat. There you go. Let's just eat. Her hair's all in her face. You're fine. I know. Yeah, we'll just eat then. You don't eat the other one off. You got it. There you go.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:40| So going back to that first experience, when you got home that night, did she communicate in any way about the experience she had? I mean, could you see somehow that yeah, this was really something she wanted to do again?
Melody Forsyth: |00:17:55| Why was it like when we got home? But I just ... her face, like her demeanor. She was just like when she was on the skis, she was just like, all right, I guess this is what we're doing today. She was just very go with the flow and like, okay. And, you know, we just came back again. And I mean, she says no to everything, but we ask her, Hey, do you want to do this? And she shakes her head, No, but we just kind of, you know, push her anyways, like, well, we're going to do it anyways. And she's like, she's like, well, she likes it because she'll get back up and you know, she goes through the motions and she likes, you know, getting the boots on. She thought those were fun. And then she's like, well, she wanted her own goggles. And because she could see that, you know, that they were in the display case and that was very attractive to her. And so like that, just having the gear on and stuff, I was just like, okay, well she's enjoying this because she's just like going along with it because usually she doesn't like something like she'll fight it and she doesn't know about that. Yeah, she doesn't fight it. She's, you know, lifts up her foot to put her boots on and steps in it. And, you know.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:53| Now she's only six years old. I mean, do you think it's the thrill of the rush of the wind on your face, this speed going down the hill and this kind of different motion that you just don't feel anywhere else?
Melody Forsyth: |00:19:05| Yeah, I think she likes that. But she really does come alive when she's outside. Like, I just see she's just … she's happy. She enjoys being, enjoys the fresh air, enjoys trying different things because I think she just I guess she doesn't know, like be fearful of certain. … So she just goes with it and it's just fun to watch her.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:26| That's why kids actually are probably better at this and getting started than we were as adults. I didn't actually learn until I was 18 years old, but tell me a little bit about the Wasatch Adaptive Sports Program and how they interrelate with Ruby here at Snowbird.
Melody Forsyth: |00:19:42| Oh, they've like ... all of her instructors have been really great because they're … just asked questions kind of like what, what ... where she's at ... communicate her abilities really well. You know, I know sometimes like for some children they're like, well, we don't like to push them and and I like ... I kind of know like she needs to be pushed a little bit, and I know where there's that good. It's a good push. You just like she just, you know, just make her do it because she'll do it. And that was just really frightening, I know, when it's like, okay, now we need to back off so it's not a bad experience for her, but really every single time, like she's had a good time, every single time she's ever come up here and just happy. And once I see her, like, let her go, like last time it was the first time she was on the chairlift. And her instructor even said that she was like she said when she got up there, she was like, wow, I mean, she can say that word. So I was like, okay, well, she really knows what that means. So she thinks this is pretty cool of being on a chairlift, you know, and going up here. So.
Tom Kelly: |00:20:37| Well, it is pretty cool. She's just taking a little break with a cookie right now. Let's talk about other activities. You have become a very active family. What are some of the other things that Ruby's been able to do?
Melody Forsyth: |00:20:49| So we're always looking for other things that we don't have to carry her because it's a little hard now. She's about 50 pounds, so it's hard carrying her on my back like I used to. So things. So we've really been like kayaking. We've done paddleboarding, I mean, obviously swimming. We've started taking her swimming more. We've gone bicycling a couple of times, but when we've gone several times … like rappelling she loves that.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:20| Everybody loves rappelling.
Melody Forsyth: |00:21:22| Yeah. She just we have a really good instructor that we always will go with as a family because he works with people with disabilities and he's confident and not afraid and just, you know, lets her go and or else just strap her to the his rope and she's just dangling there and and she's just smiling, smiling, having fun. So, yeah, she just loves all the, you know, we're like, well, let's try this, I guess like, oh, ice skating. That's something that she really enjoys. When we get the ice skates on her, she knows and she has a good time as a family. That's something we did a lot this winter.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:55| Cool. Now let's talk a little bit about you. You are a mother of four now. You work late shifts as a nurse. Yes. How do you balance all of it and still have that big smile on your face?
Melody Forsyth: |00:22:08| Oh, I don't know that I balance and also well, but I just it makes me happy to like, you know, getting out into the outdoors because of her, like, changed my life, changed my ... it gave me a purpose. It gave me, I don't know, something to do. It's what helped me find my own passion in life. And that was ... that's something huge, you know, and you're 40, still kind of trying to figure out who you are. And then, you know, you start getting to the outdoors and doing those things. You realize this. This is what I really enjoy doing. This is what I'm all about. And because it, like, restores my soul and helps me, like, as a mother and as a wife and just as a person, as an individual. Like that's what, you know, kind of pushes me to continue doing those things because we just feel great doing it.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:53| It's an amazing state that we live in with Utah because we have that diversity of activities, be it going down to the desert and rappelling into a slot canyon or being up here in Snowbird on the snow, and you're now experiencing more of that as a family.
Melody Forsyth: |00:23:06| Oh, yeah. Like we, we travel all over the state because there's just so many cool things to do as a family that I mean, you can put in a tons of activity level or even just, you know, fun exploring. You're just letting kids hang out, just doing whatever they're doing. Like so many things for families to be able to do and get out there and spend time together. And like, that's, that's our bonding, that's our activity. Like what we plan together as a family. It brings us together.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:35| You've been very active in telling Ruby's story and the story of your family over the last couple of years. What message do you have for other families who may have a child with Down syndrome or some other physical disability? What message do you have to them?
Melody Forsyth: |00:23:51| Well, I mean, it's a hard lesson for us that we had to learn, but like to not let the diagnosis limit them. I mean, no ... and like, if we're going to ski as a family, it's not going to look the same as everybody else. But we also don't care because we just enjoy being outside and being together. And so we know we have to make some adaptations to what she's able to do. And we always think about that, like whatever activities she has. But we really just want to first spread a message of hope so that it's not this horrible message anymore when people find out they have a child with Down syndrome, because that's how it was for us, because we didn't know anybody. And so we're hoping, you know, as more people share their children and get them out there that have Down syndrome and showing all the amazing things they're doing, whether it's in the outdoors or, you know, art or, you know, sewing or all these other activities that they are able to do, like just by showing their capabilities, like it's just changing the face of Down syndrome. And that's what we're just hoping to do, that it's not it will be now. It will be something that's embraced and appreciated and cherished. Instead of being a diagnosis that has just such a negative connotation with.
Tom Kelly: |00:24:59| I usually close off our last. Sure podcasts and ask the guest to describe something in just one word. I'm going to give you a little bit more latitude Melody today. But if you think back, what has Ruby really meant to you over these last six years?
Melody Forsyth: |00:25:15| Well, I think she's I mean, she's made me a stronger person and like she has opened the world to me. I guess that just she has taught me, like, to also not put those limits on myself because I also I was a plus size person ... I think I still … it's like, that's why I didn't ski either, because I'm like, fat people don't ski because I you know, that was the narrative. I told myself. I'm like, that's not for me. You know, there's lots of other things. I'm like, Oh, well, people my size don't do this. And so as I saw her doing it and I'm like, Well, I don't want her to grow up, you know, feeling that way or ever thinking, Oh, because I have Down syndrome, I can't do this for her to try, see if she likes it, see if she can do it that. So then because she set that example for me that I'm like, Well, now I said, Yeah, I can't set these limits on myself and I need to push myself as well. And like, well, let's give it a try. Let's see if, see if we like it, see if we don't. So.
Tom Kelly: |00:26:13| Well, Melody. I want to thank you for being a voice for Ruby and for for many, many others the past few years and spreading this message. And thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
Melody Forsyth: |00:26:23| Thanks so much for having us.
Tom Kelly: |00:26:24| Okay, let's get back up on the mountain. We're at Chickadee today at Snowbird.
Tom Kelly: |00:26:28| How's it going today, Ruby? Come on.
Melody Forsyth: |00:26:30| Let's go.
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