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DBT40 Honoree: Lauren Gates

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Title: Executive Director

Workplace: Down Syndrome Association of Delaware

Age: 26

Since 2012, Lauren Gates, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware, has made sure more than 500 families every year get the support they need for their medical, occupational and educational needs.

Gates oversees the association’s mission by managing programs and fundraisers, forming partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits and securing grant funding for the organization. During the pandemic, she focused on one-on-one relationships with the families she serves, which allowed the organization to increase resources to families in need just when many other businesses were being forced to scale back.

Her connection to DSAD dates back to high school, when she volunteered for it and other nonprofits in the First State. When she created a summer camp for children with Down syndrome for her senior project, she caught the attention of the organization and ultimately helped lead to her first job offer. She worked part-time for the organization through college, and began as their first executive director the day after graduation.

Since then, the association has grown from a staff member of one with no office to an organization with a $500,000 budget, two full-time employees and a half dozen contractors. The organization’s member base has expanded by 60%, and a brick-and-mortar location offers job training programs and other services. 

The Wilmington resident and athlete has been recognized as the youngest National Board President for Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action, which allows her to work with more than 100 Down syndrome organizations nationwide. She also founded Down to Box, a national nonprofit with 13 locations that provides fitness and boxing programs, and serves as the policy associate with the National Down Syndrome Congress working on national policy issues.

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