When his daughter Lindsey, 23, was in elementary school, Dr. Ashleigh Molloy attended a parent-teacher interview and experienced a type of labeling that he will never forget.
“I said, ‘Hi I am Dr. Ashleigh Molloy’ and she said, ‘Oh, you have a Down syndrome daughter.’ So I responded, ‘Oh, you must be mistaken,’” he said. “’I have a bright and bubbly daughter, with beautiful brunette long flowing hair, who loves to sing and dance,’ but responded as an afterthought ‘oh yeah, she does have Down syndrome.’”
For Molloy, his daughter’s disability was never a definition but merely a small part of who she is.
It’s because of moments like these that Molloy and his friend, former Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustee Tobias Enverga work tirelessly to spread awareness about Down syndrome.
Enverga is the first Filipino-Canadian elected in the city of Toronto, having served as TCDSB trustee in Ward 8 since 2010.
On Sept. 7, Enverga moved to a higher post when Prime Minister Harper appointed him to serve in the Senate.
Molloy said, now that Enverga is a senator, he will continue to spread the message that a diagnosis of Down syndrome does not define the individual.
“I think as a senator he is going to take these values and commitments to the national stage,” Molloy said. “He will empower many young Filipinos who may aspire to serve in politics and he will certainly be very focused on issues that deal with disabilities.”
In addition to being friends, Enverga and Molloy lead similar lives. Both are members of the Special Education Advisory Committee at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and both are members of the Down Syndrome Association of Toronto. But on top of that they are both fathers of girls with Down Syndrome.
During Enverga’s time on the TCDSB, he and Molloy advised the board on policies relating to children with disabilities.
“I have worked with [Enverga] and have seen his concern. I recognize his valuable input and support for students and families with children having disabilities.”
Molloy said they advocate to ensure that people know persons with Down syndrome have abilities, not disabilities.
“They are differently abled,” he said. “There are skills they have, that we don’t have and they bring those skills to better the community.”
Molloy said he and Enverga encourage their daughters to take an active part in society.
“They love to do performances at seniors’ residences, they are called the ‘Sunshine Gang’,” he said. “The seniors don’t see disability, they see kids doing something nice for them and that’s the way it should be.”