Two years ago, Rochelle Larsen gave birth to little BrynnLe. She knew right off what her calling was going to be.
"Because I know what it is to get that diagnosis and I know how it feels," said Larsen.
That diagnosis was Down Syndrome. Not long after that, Larsen and her husband were driving home from an awareness function in Utah.
"My husband turned to me in the car and just said, 'When are you going to start a foundation up in Idaho?' And I had been thinking about it, but I didn't want to ask one more thing of my husband or my kids. So when he brought it up, I just ran with it after that," said Larsen.
With the help of her friend Angie Mago, the Eastern Idaho Down Syndrome Family Connect was born not long after BrynnLe.
"We need to advocate. There needs to be the support. When BrynnLe was born, Rochelle lost friends. People were afraid of how to talk to her and how to react," said Mago.
The biggest challenge has been getting their 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit. They hired a lawyer for advice and immediately started fundraisers to pay for it. But it has brought great rewards.
"I can't say just because of BrynnLe, but my family has changed. My neighborhood has changed. My community has changed because of children like BrynnLe. And so that is probably the biggest reward, is seeing how amazing and generous people are," said Larsen.
"Because for one, they're a child of God too. They are no different than any other child. And there is nothing to be afraid of. It's been an eye-opener and a blessing for not only me, but for my family," said Mago.
The foundation provides resources for families.
"There's an immediate bond between people that have Down Syndrome children because we know what it's like," said Larsen.
They also provide help with adaptive equipment, getting homes certified, care baskets, materials to open up conversations, and group meetings for other parents looking for support.
"It's a lot easier for me to teach them a few signs than it is for me to teach them how to read lips," said Elsha Young, a speech pathologist.
Kory Carling from Mountain America Credit Union entered the room.
"Rochelle, we have heard about you like many other families in the area and been so touched with what you are doing and we are here to pay it forward. And we'd like to help support your cause. We brought with us $500 cash that we hope will help you continue to make a difference with the families in the area," said Carling.
"Thank you very much," said Larsen.
"You are more than welcome," said Carling.
The foundation is holding a 3.21-mile run, a 10K, and a fun walk Saturday, Aug. 29, at Snake River Landing. It is looking for business sponsors and individuals. You can register by calling Angie Mago at 208-339-7222 or by going to the website, http://www.easternidahodownsyndrome.com/, and clicking on Events.
"Pay It Forward" will air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" off to the right side of our website and fill out the form or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.