Down Syndrome Association of the Valley

Marlena Timmerman Brings Greetings, Hope

It’s understandable if a new parent expresses worry over the responsibility of raising a child. It’s a lifelong commitment and you’re guaranteed to make mistakes.

That worry is compounded if your child is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

So it’s no small amount of responsibility that 23-year-old Marlena Timmerman carries along with her welcome basket when she goes to meet them.

Timmerman was born with Down syndrome and has been taking part in programming at the Down Syndrome Association of the Valley, or DSAV, since it opened in 2007.

That, along with her friendly smile and sunny disposition, makes her the perfect ambassador for people with Down syndrome, says the association’s  marketing director, Sharon Roncone.

“What’s really nice is we’ll have young families who just had a diagnosis or they just had a baby, and Marlena will bring them the welcome basket,” says Roncone.

“It’s really cool to get it and meet someone like Marlena and think, ‘My daughter could be like that.’ “

Timmerman, who will celebrate her 24th birthday May 4 with what she says will be a “princess party,” is an integral part of the association’s outreach efforts in the community.

Lexi Melia is Marlena Timmerman’s aide.

In addition to delivering welcome baskets to new parents, Timmerman volunteers her time running errands for the association, writing birthday cards for members and delivering “thank you” plaques to DSAV sponsors.

“It’s important that it’s her and they see how beautiful she is and how smart,” says Roncone.

When she’s not volunteering for DSAV, Timmerman works two days a week at the Hampton Inn in Canfield, a job she’s held since June.

“I work in the kitchen and in the laundry,” she says.

“She’s very proud of that,” confirms her mother, Sandee Timmerman.

Marlena started receiving work experience about three years ago through the Mahoning County Educational Service Center’s Work Study Program at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

Thanks to her instructor, Karen Marra – who Timmerman calls her “inspiration” – she was able to get work experience at Big Lots, Joann Fabric, Pizza Joe’s and Pizza Hut.

“I don’t work there anymore because I was eating the chicken,” admits Timmerman, laughing all the while.

“She’s very happy with what she’s doing,” says her  mother.

“She wants to work. She wants to be in the community. She’s a very social person.”

In her free time, Timmerman says she enjoys cooking – meatballs are her favorite – going out to eat and listening to Christian rock music.

Usually, she’s accompanied by Lexi Melia, her state-funded aide.

“She is a light in my life,” says Melia. “She makes me happy.”

Although she’s only been her aide for about four months, Melia has been close with Timmerman since they were children. 

Melia’s grandparents live across the street from Timmerman in Austintown, and the two would often play.

“We have fun together. How can you not love her?” asks Melia as they embrace.

“We’re princesses,” adds Timmerman.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.