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South Valley Riverton Journal

Carving Pumpkins For A Cause

Nov 06, 2014 08:09AM ● By Shawna Meyer
The Fragile X Association of Utah hosted its third annual Parade of Pumpkins on Oct. 25 at the Sandra N. Lloyd Community Center in Riverton, and the event brought in a little over $3,000 for the Fragile X Foundation.

The Parade of Pumpkins is kind of like the Festival of Trees. However, instead of bidding on Christmas trees, people in attendance bid on Halloween displays, decorated pumpkins and haunted gingerbread houses. One Sweet Slice was also on hand selling cupcakes. Everything raised went to the Fragile X Foundation.

Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition related to autism that causes many intellectual complications, along with speech delay, motor skills delay and sensitivity to light and sound. Although Fragile X can occur in both sexes, males are more likely to be affected by the disease than females, and generally, their symptoms present with greater severity.

Tiffany Douglas from Riverton has been involved with the Fragile X Association of Utah for almost three years, and she was recently promoted to help lead the local chapter. Her two sons both were diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome, and her nephew also has it.

“Since I’m a carrier, I had basically a 50 percent chance of passing it to my kids. It just so happens that I passed it to both my boys, and my daughter is a carrier,” Douglas said.

Her oldest son Hunter, 13, attends Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Riverton, which is a school especially for special needs students.

“He still isn’t very verbal. I mean, he can speak words, but he can’t put sentences together. But he’s a happy kid,” Douglas said.

The case of Porter, 11, is a bit more mild. He goes to school at Monte Vista Elementary School.

“He’s higher functioning. He can talk and read. He is just a couple of grades behind where he is supposed to be in school,” Douglas said.

Douglas and her boys are a part of the Grandview Ward from the Herriman Utah Mountain View Stake.

Her sister Natalie Loveridge also has a 7-year-old son, Ashton, with Fragile X Syndrome, and they live in the Grand View Ward as well. 

“We’ve just been so overwhelmed with kindness. We’ve been here for 15 years, and everybody has always been so good, kind and helpful with our boys,” Douglas said.

For this year’s personal progress project, the leaders of the young women in the ward decided to volunteer to help with the Parade of Pumpkins. They contacted Douglas and offered their help decorating, making displays to auction off and organizing Halloween-themed games for the kids.

“We wanted to do a group project where we could all combine our efforts, and so that is why we chose the Parade of Pumpkins . . . We’ve known these boys since they were little babies, and we just love them and their families,”  Young Women leader Wendy Burningham said. “The Fragile X Foundation is great because it helps to not only bring awareness to Fragile X, but it also helps to educate families.”

At the event, Douglas stressed the importance of spreading awareness about Fragile X because not many people know about it. Many kids are misdiagnosed with autism, for which the treatment is very different, she said.

“A lot of kids actually get misdiagnosed as autistic because there are some similarities . . . We’re trying to spread awareness for it because you teach autistic kids and Fragile X kids differently.”

“With autistic kids, the main focus is to pull them out of their inner world. You want them to make eye contact, and that helps them to learn. But when you force a Fragile X kid to make eye contact, they pull inside themselves and you won’t get anything else out of them. They become too over-stimulated,” Douglas said.

After the event, the young men and women from the Grandview Ward collected the displays that didn’t sell and took them to assisted living centers in the area for Halloween.