Saturday, November 14, 2009


For the past few weeks I have been doing some weekly volunteer work at Club 21 in Pasadena. This is an organization dedicated to serving families and youngsters who have Down syndrome. It's a clearinghouse, an education resource, a place of comfort for families, and a social nexus. There is a queen bee at the center of this buzzing hive, and her name is Nancy Litteken.

Who doesn't know Nancy? If you don't, you should! Nancy is that person you want to sit beside at a conference because she grasps what's going on intuitively, but she has a deliciously impish sense of humor that keeps you alert at all times. As with many warm,dynamic people, Nancy does not appear to have much reason to be such a crackerjack. She will tell you that she was a hearing child born to deaf parents. Her first language was Sign, and when you converse with her, her hands are still flying today. Nancy once told me her parents would take her to the Hollywood Bowl to listen to music because they thought that was what Hearing People did. Nancy grew up to teach and work with hearing-impaired and special needs families. There is, of course, a pretzel logic to her life's preparation. Eleven years ago her own daughter was born with Down syndrome. As Nancy began to search for therapies and resources to benefit her own family, she discovered that our Los Angeles region was strikingly devoid of comprehensive support. What to do about that?

With no discernible promise of success, Nancy hatched the tiny egg of ingenuity. She would raise a nonprofit organization to aid families with Down syndrome! And why not? She had no previous experience, so she never was rationally nervous about the undertaking. Through the miracle that is Nancy, Pasadena Covenant Church agreed to house an office, classroom space,a baby play area,and a private counseling room. Nancy favors a little p'zazz, so she chose the sporty, insouciant name CLUB 21, in honor of the little chromosome that begs to differ. Nancy and her devoted circle of friends have made both a haven and a cutting-edge lab where schoolwork is adapted, where parent meetings are held, where teachers are trained, and where questions are always welcome. Hugs, tears, and laughter are dispensed at every turn.

Earlier this month, the combined efforts of Flintridge Prep Leo Club, Polytechnic students, friends, families, and volunteers hot-housed a walkathon that earned close to $50,000! Nancy's autumn brainchild, recruiting credentialed teachers to volunteer as reading tutors, is just winding down its first ten-week session. After a December hiatus, we tutors will begin again in January. We plan to offer our services until the end of the school year, drawing in more volunteers and expanding the program. Check out and see what Nancy hath wrought.

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