Local kid makes waves for Down Syndrome

Austin Hankins, 10-years old shows his skills catching a wave along the Tennessee River.

Ten years ago Missy and Greg Hankins welcomed a little baby boy named Austin into their lives; a joyous occasion that surprised them.

Missy Hankins, Austin's mother said "We didn't have any test done while I was pregnant because we had two typical girls before him. When he found out he had Down Syndrome we were surprised and didn't know what to expect."

Greg Hankins, Austin's father explained "Once we came to grips with the fact that this is what we're dealing with; Missy and I said we're going to raise our son just like we raised our daughters."

They did just that and now ten years later Austin is an bright and active young man who is up for any adventure.

"We never wanted to hold him back so we gave him every opportunity to be a kid and try new things." said Missy

As an active family who spends most of their time on the lake; Austin fell in love with the water and all the activities that come along with it including water surfing.

"He's up for trying anything. It might take him a little longer to learn but he's very determined." said Missy

The family submitted a picture of him water surfing to the New York City Buddy Walk Photo Contest and got selected.

His picture will be one of only 250 pictures played on a jumbo-tron in Times Square during the New York City Buddy Walk. It's a way to show people that just because you're different doesn't mean you're not capable and kids like Austin would get a chance at life.

Missy said "The abortion rates are very high some as high as 90% and I just want people to see that Austin is just like any other normal kid-- he just has more challenges."

It's an important message that the Hankins family wants people to know when it comes to Down Syndrome.

"All it takes is a little extra effort from parents and peers. Kids with Down Syndrome can do anything they put their mind too and in the end they add joy to your life... joy that you'd never expect." said Greg

Austin's picture will be up in Times Square on September 21st for the Flagship Buddy Walk in New York City. As for the Knoxville Buddy Walk, that will be on October 13th at World's Fair Park.

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