On June 29, Joey Wittkugle will be turning 62.
Not a remarkable thing for men of his age these days, except that when he was a baby, his parents were told he would not live beyond the age of 11.
When Joey was born in the late 1950s, the doctors told his parents that he would live a short life, and have to be sheltered.
“The doctor came in and never asked my name and said to me, ‘You have to put him away. He’ll never talk. He’ll never walk. He’ll never know who you are. He will live to the age of 11 and that will be the end of it,’” his mother, Bobbi, told local Ohio NBC affiliate Channel 8.
You see, Joey was born with Down syndrome, and at the time, Bobbi explained, “nobody knew about them, and they kept them in the house. I mean, you did not have them out walking or one thing or another.”
Every year, roughly 6,000 American children are born with Down syndrome or roughly 1 in 700.
When Joey was born, the life expectancy for one of these children was just ten years old.
Bobbi explained that it was her priest who helped her see the value of her son’s life, despite how limited his life may have to be.
“Bobbi, you were gifted by God, you were chosen by God to have this child. You can’t turn your back on him,” she says the clergyman told her. “When he leaves you, then you will know the purpose of him coming to you.”
Her precious boy, however, would go on to live a life that blessed his loved ones.
“I want people to start understanding, when you see one of our children, don’t turn your back at them like they did years ago. They are human, they are special from God and please learn to love them as much as they love you,” Bobbi said.
To celebrate the momentous occasion, the day prior to Joey’s birthday, his family will hold a parade in his honor on the 5th Street Plaza in Struthers, Ohio, to which all are invited so that they can “let people know that these children, these adults are just as human as you and I. They have feelings like we do. They give extra special love”
Bobbi’s faith in her son’s Creator and the love that would sustain them both is a beautiful inspiration to all of us working so hard to affirm that all life is precious!
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