Cork teen leads special performance ahead of World Down Syndrome Day

Cork teen leads special performance ahead of World Down Syndrome Day

Students with Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Cork, Emily Manning (front) with Maedhbh Hayes, Ella Sladewski, Emma Gibbons, Freya Allen and Lily Allen at the recording of a dance video to help raise funds for Down Syndrome Cork at their Field of Dream, Curraheen, Cork, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. Picture: Denis Minihane.

A 13-year-old Cork girl who was unable to walk until she was three led a special dance performance filmed ahead of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) on Sunday.

Emily Manning, who has Down syndrome, had an operation to fix a hole in her heart in 2011 and has been doing ballet ever since to help strengthen her muscles.

“Emily was premature and she had a hole in her heart. We got that fixed in 2011. She wasn’t walking up until then, but three days after having her operation, she actually got up and took her first steps,” her mum Deirdre Fitzgibbon told The Echo.

“We had to be up in Dublin for the operation the same day the Queen arrived - so the city had a visit from two Queens that day!” Following the operation, Emily, from Ballyphehane, took up dancing at the Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, owned by her aunt, Sharon Manning.

Ahead of WDSD, Emily along with five other senior girls at the school, recorded a socially-distanced dance at the Field of Dreams site in Curraheen.

Field of Dreams, established by Down Syndrome Cork in 2017, is a horticulture-focused training centre for adults with Down syndrome.

Some footage was also shot at Bandon in fields belonging to West Cork Daffodils.

Students with Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Cork, Emily Manning (front) with Maedhbh Hayes, Ella Sladewski, Emma Gibbons, Freya Allen and Lily Allen at the recording of a dance video to help raise funds for Down Syndrome Cork at their Field of Dream, Curraheen, Cork, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Students with Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Cork, Emily Manning (front) with Maedhbh Hayes, Ella Sladewski, Emma Gibbons, Freya Allen and Lily Allen at the recording of a dance video to help raise funds for Down Syndrome Cork at their Field of Dream, Curraheen, Cork, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The video, which is set to be released tomorrow, was choreographed by Emily’s cousin, Karena Walsh, and was filmed in a bid to raise much-needed funds for Down Syndrome Cork.

“A lot of our normal fundraising activities have been curtailed due to Covid,” Ms Fitzgibbon, who is a member of the parent-run charity, said.

“Our motto is share the journey. You learn things from other parents – it’s just a great support. We really would be lost without Down Syndrome Cork.” 

Ms Fitzgibbon, who says she spotted her daughter’s condition before any medical professional did, says she is proud of every milestone Emily has achieved so far.

Emily Manning, a student with Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Cork, at the recording of a dance video to help raise funds for Down Syndrome Cork at their Field of Dream, Curraheen, Cork, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Emily Manning, a student with Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance, Cork, at the recording of a dance video to help raise funds for Down Syndrome Cork at their Field of Dream, Curraheen, Cork, to mark World Down Syndrome Day. Picture: Denis Minihane.

With an array of role models to look up to, Ms Fitzgibbon says she is excited about what’s in store for her daughter.

“A young man in Florida with Down syndrome last year was the first to complete an Iron Man within the time.

“We know a girl ourselves, she’s working in the Mercy Hospital and in a credit union - she’s unbelievable. She’s who I want my daughter to grow up like.” 

But all in good time.

“I always say Emily is my teacher and I’m the student. She will show me when she’s able to do things. Yes, we’ll try things, we’ll never say no but she is my teacher and I just go at her speed.” 

Down Syndrome Cork will also be showing a virtual concert, featuring the likes of Róisín O, Bressie and Brian Kennedy on Youtube on WDSD at 7:30pm, where people will also have the option to donate if they wish to do so.

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