On September 8, 2008, Thomas Vander Woude and his son Josie, then 20, were working together on the family’s farm in Virginia when Josie fell into the farm’s septic tank. Without a thought for his own safety, Mr. Vander Woude jumped in after his son and held him up to be rescued while he himself drowned in the sewage. Josie survived, but the family of seven sons lost their dad, a devoted husband and former air pilot. Known throughout his life for his love and generosity, Thomas Vander Woude’s story is an incredible testament to heroism.
To memoralize Vander Woude’s sacrifice for his son, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation is building a perpetual fund to support therapeutic research for those living with Down syndrome. An organization called Angels in Disguise has provided the initial gift for the fund. With World Down Syndrome Day this Saturday, March 21, it is a good time to be reminded that all people, regardless of their abilities, have inherent and immeasurable dignity and worth.