JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —
2020—and all of its challenges—has families looking forward to the holidays this year.
For some, it’s about the good feelings the season brings…and for others, it’s about the opportunity to make new memories and create new traditions.
But for this family, Action News Jax Courtney Cole is introducing us to, it’s about celebrating their very first Christmas with their 11-month-old baby boy.
He’s overcome a number of challenges—and proves that strength can indeed come in small packages.
You wouldn’t be able to tell by the light in his eyes or the big smile on his face, but Malachi Kelly has been through a lot this year.
“We’re just excited to share this season with our family,” said Cassandra Kelly.
Cassandra Kelly, Malachi’s mom, and Ryan Kelly, Malachi’s Dad, said their 11-month-old baby boy was born three weeks early, on January 16th.
“We knew that he was going to be small, but we didn’t really know any other details,” Cassandra told Action News Jax.
At just 10-days-old, Cassandra and Ryan learned Malachi had Down Syndrome.
“It was nerve-racking, it was daunting, but also it was God kind of just saying, ‘we know you guys got this, we want to give you this little guy,’” Cassandra explained.
Over these 12 months, the little warrior has powered through multiple surgeries and managed to share his infectious smile with all the doctors and nurses along the way.
“He doesn’t hold grudges for long when he gets poked and prodded by the doctors and nurses. It just doesn’t seem to really affect him,” Cassandra told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.
“When he was ready to come home we were happy to have him!” exclaimed Ryan.
Now he enjoys playtime with his big sister Lillian and is making new strides, every day!
“He starting to independently sit up a little bit, so that’s a fun milestone we’re hitting right now,” Cassandra said proudly.
Getting his stocking stuffed by Santa and celebrating his first Christmas is the next experience The Kelly Family is grateful to add to the list.
“We’re just looking forward to the years to come,” said Cassandra.
Cassandra and Ryan told Action News Jax that the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville played a very supportive role emotionally and fincially from Day 1 of Malachi’s diagnosis.
“It’s a unique journey, but we have a really big support system here in Jacksonville and a great organization and great people,” said Cassandra.
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Debbie Revels, the Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association, told me the beautiful part about their organization is that they play a supportive role for the baby’s entire life.
“Our programs and services are through there a whole adult life span and we continue to grow, and change and add more products and services as needs become available for our families,” said Revels.
She told Action News Jax she’s working with three families right now that receive a pre-natal diagnosis, and they are due anywhere between now and March.
The Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville (DSAJ) has provided support from pre-natal diagnosis through childhood and adulthood since 1989 and has been able to help more than 1,500 local families.
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