Winners Cup Brings Kentucky Derby Experience to West Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI, February 9 – A little more than 30 years ago six families who had children with Down syndrome gathered together. Their original aim was to provide support and share knowledge with other families.  Today, the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan (DSAWM) serves more than 300 member families experiencing Down syndrome by providing therapeutic, emotional, and financial support from diagnosis through adulthood.

In 2004, the Winners Cup Benefit was created to generate financial support for the Down syndrome community in West Michigan. Proceeds from the annual Kentucky Derby party and auction help to fund the vital supports, programs and services provided by DSAWM. To date, the Benefit has raised more than $1,300,000.  At the sold out 2016 event, generous West Michigan donors gave a record $125,000 – including more than $17,000 for iCan Bike Camp – a week long program that teaches children with Down syndrome and other disabilities to ride a typical bicycle. “iCan Bike programs run around the country and can cost parents hundreds of dollars per child.  But thanks to Winners Cup guests, we were able to offer last summer’s camp free of charge,” shared DSAWM Executive Director, April Sawhill.

The 2017 Winners Cup Benefit will be held on Saturday, May 6th at Kent Country Club.  Guests will be greeted by a professional show horse as they arrive in their best Derby attire, including the famously stylish hats and dresses for the ladies.  The event will feature the ever-popular Best Hat & Dapper Dan Contests, hand rolled cigar bar, silent & live auctions and music by DJ AB. Guests will view the Derby and enjoy an authentic southern meal and signature drinks. Beyond the fun, attending the Winners Cup has the potential to change lives. “What if we lived in a community where everyone, including those with Down syndrome, were accepted and valued for their uniqueness, respected for the abilities they have, and were able to choose their own path to living a fulfilled life? That is our goal as we work to bring inclusion and opportunities to individuals with Down syndrome in West Michigan,” shared Winners Cup Committee Chairs Bill and Bobbie Jo Blanton.

This year’s guest speaker is Self-Advocate Carrie Begeron, a former board member of the National Down Syndrome Congress who currently serves on the Self-Advocacy Council.  She also participates in her local Speakers’ Bureau.  Carrie is the recipient of the “Voices” award from the National Down Syndrome Society as well as the Christian Pueschel Memorial Citizenship award from the National Down Syndrome Congress.  She also was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2014 at her alma mater, Herkimer Community College.

Her many roles include being a  daughter, sister, volunteer, teacher’s assistant for toddlers with special needs, a first degree black belt holder,  fitness enthusiast,  friend, conversant in sign language, student,  pioneer, dancer,  along with being a motivational speaker.  Her passion is to spread awareness that all people with Down syndrome and other disabilities should be given every opportunity to meet their individual potential and success.  Says Carrie, “I have taken the ‘dis’ from disability and made it my ability to advocate for those of us with special needs.”

Interested in attending the Winners Cup? Please contact DSAWM at 616-956-3488 or download a sponsorship brochure.


The Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan Foundation (DSAWMF) was established to provide a permanent source of principal, in order that funds would be available in the future for to support individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the West Michigan communities in which they live, work and play. DSAWMF is a separate not-for-profit organization from the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan (DSAWM), funded by cash, securities and other assets, and helps to fund the vital programs, supports and services provided by DSAWM.

Annually, one in nearly 700 babies is born with Down Syndrome, making it the most commonly occurring chromosomal abnormality.  Each of these babies will have some manner of cognitive delay and be at an increased risk for certain medical conditions.  As they grow older and navigate through life, those initial challenges will be compounded by daunting social barriers and stereotypes. DSAWMF believes in creating communities that embrace down syndrome, empowering individuals with Down syndrome and promoting opportunities for meaningful lives. The support of community members like you is crucial to this vision.