Anthony Dandrea and his family show the world what it means to remove fear and step out in faith.
Anthony competes in basketball, track, soccer, football and swimming. The Boise High senior is headed to Coastal Carolina University this fall. (Courtesy photos/Dandrea family)
By Emily Woodham
After being the team manager for four years for the Boise High School basketball team, Anthony Dandrea was at last able to get on the court with his team for the first time this February.
When he scored a 3-point basket, his teammates, as well as the opposing teammates and the fans in the gym cheered loudly. The moment was captured on KTVB, Boise’s NBC news affiliate.
Many of Anthony’s family members and friends cried as they watched him fulfill his dream. It was a hard-won victory, realized through years of perseverance in maximizing his abilities. Anthony, 19, and his parents, Trace and Jennifer, do not let Down Syndrome define him.
Anthony Dandrea with his parents, Trace and Jennifer, creators of IncludeAbility.
Trace and Jennifer Dandrea, parishioners at Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian, are cradle Catholics who have been married for 25 years and have let their faith infuse every part of their lives. They knew the risk of having a Down Syndrome child was high with both of their children. They refused invasive testing, knowing that they would not abort. Their first born, a daughter, Katie, was born without any special needs.
“When Anthony was born, it was a bit of a whirlwind,” Jennifer said.
“No one in the hospital congratulated us. People in the medical field do not know the joy and love these kids can bring a family and how it changes a family immensely for the good.”
Despite the somber attitude of the medical staff, Trace and Jennifer embraced their son with unconditional love. They took some time to grieve that he was not healthy, but by the second day, the couple looked each other in the eyes and said, “We can do this!”
Their frustration with the medical community continued after Anthony came home from the hospital. Despite meeting developmental milestones, such as rolling over as an infant, doctors complained that he wasn’t accomplishing them as a child without disabilities would.
The Dandreas focused on the positive, noting that Anthony found a way to meet milestones. “We’re faith driven,” Trace said. “We believe that God gave us these gifts and strengths to use,” he said. “He gives you gifts to get out there and make things happen,” he said. By removing fear and stepping out in faith, little miracles happened that encouraged them and Anthony to persevere.
Too many people allow fear of failure to stop them from trying sports and pursuing a dream, Trace said. Even failure is a form of winning, he said, because failing is learning.
Their efforts paid off many times over. Anthony has pursued basketball, track, swim team, soccer and football. Through his involvement, he has developed intellectually and socially, as well as physically, Jennifer said.
“He went to preschool and kindergarten with kids that he still goes to school with at Boise High,” his mother said. “He has lifelong friends who have his back and love him.”
This fall, Anthony will attend Coastal Carolina University near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His older sister’s enrollment at a university a few years ago made him more determined to go to college as well. The Dandreas found a program, “Think College,” that helps people with disabilities attain their goals for university.
The Dandreas participated in RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome), a program to help couples adopt orphans with Down Syndrome. Because kids in the Boise area wanted to be involved in races to raise money for RODS, the Dandreas created a junior version of the organization.
The Dandreas witnessed the impact it made on people to see kids with disabilities race in mainstream competitions. “It became about more than raising money; it became about the value of inclusion,” Jennifer said.
That led the Dandreas to create more opportunities to include kids with disabilities in the school community. They created IncludeAbility, an organization that works with the mainstream sports community, schools and clubs to include kids with all abilities. (See includeability.org.)
“The more the community encounters kids with disabilities, the more people will value their dignity and worth,” said Trace, himself an athlete who competes in Ironman triathlons.
“By seeing how amazing Anthony’s life is, we’re hoping people think differently about Down Syndrome,” Trace said. The Andreas are hoping that fewer people will choose to abort when they see that children with Down Syndrome are not broken. “God doesn’t make mistakes,” Trace said.
Jennifer and Trace never backed down from including Anthony in the community, and Anthony has overcome every obstacle to pursue his passions. “He rose to expectations each time,” Jennifer said.
Anthony’s passion is not limited to sports. He is an altar server at Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Boise High. Throughout the pandemic, Anthony has continued to meet with fellow Christian athletes through Zoom each Friday for Bible study. He enjoys sharing Bible passages and prayer with his friends.
“We trust God. You have to believe. If you give up, you’ve already lost,” Trace said.
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