SHAKOPEE, Minn. — Jackson Girling is a jokester.
"The world is basically his stage, when he chooses to perform," said Amy Girling, Jackson's mother.
He is like most 12-year-olds, he loves baseball, soccer and Valleyfair. However, unlike other kids his age, he's had to overcome challenges since birth. Jackson was born at 35 weeks, six days after Amy was induced due to low amniotic fluids. He weighed five pounds and was 19 inches when he was born.
"He was born early and spent the first three-and-a-half weeks of his life in the hospital," Amy said.
Then came Jackson's Down syndrome diagnosis.
"Jackson was delayed in all of his milestones," Amy said. "He started to babble at about six months. He really didn't start to do a lot of movement until he was about 1 [years old.] By age 2, he started to crawl and then started to do some walking."
Despite all of this, Jackson is ahead in a lot of ways.
"He has got a ton of personality," Amy said. "Jackson is the kind of person that he can walk into a crowd, and can instantly make friends."
The Girlings were introduced to "A Kid Again," a nonprofit that creates fun adventures for families with children who have complex medical journeys.
"Something to forget about," Amy said. "Kind of all the hassle, the medical appointments, all the extras we do for our kids for a day."
The nonprofit is partnering with Valleyfair to give kids and families a special day at the park. On Friday, June 23, Valleyfair will host the "Rides and Slides Adventure," where 700 tickets will be given to families within the "A Kid Again" organization.
"He had a fantastic, entertaining day [last year,]" Amy said. "He was able to go on some rides, he was able to go to the water park, just interact with a variety of different people, and it was just relaxing for us as a family."
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