Meet Chris and Karen Baumeister! Their Baltimore Buddy Walk team, Team Charlie – named for their dynamic 4-year-old son with DS, was this year's Top Fundraising Team. Karen also led the Buddy Walk's volunteer subcommittee and entrenched herself in the planning of the event. Before getting involved in CDSPG, Karen and Chris took on some pretty serious medical issues working to get Charlie healthy. Thank you to them for sharing their story.
1. Team Charlie was the Baltimore Buddy Walk’s Top Fundraising Team. What’s the secret of your success?
An amazing support system of friends and family. We had family, friends, co-workers, friends of friends and families and teachers from Charlie’s school sign up. Nobody said no. They all wanted to support our family, which is what they have been doing since the day Charlie was born. Two of our top fund raisers are Chris’ childhood neighbors who are the sweetest people and adore C. They told their kids that for their anniversary they wanted donations to Team Charlie. How cool is that?
2. Why was it important for you to get involved in the planning of the Baltimore Buddy Walk?
I had been trying to figure out a way to get involved with the CDSPG and this opportunity presented itself (thanks for the push, Courtney.) Our family was so impressed with the first Buddy Walk that I wanted to help make sure the second year was even more successful.
3. Charlie is headed to Kindergarten next year. What are you most excited about? What is Charlie’s favorite thing about school?
We are excited for him to continue to learn and thrive in a new school and watch him make new friends. He has been going to The Goddard School since he was 4 months old. (I must mention them since they were also a big Buddy Walk sponsor.) It will be hard to leave after such a long time.
When I asked Charlie what his favorite thing about school was he said “My favorite thing at school is to go outside and play.” He enjoys art and all things letters. He has started reading, which is amazing and exciting.
4. What were some of your biggest challenges after Charlie was born?
Keeping his colostomy bag from leaking! I changed 3 in one hour. It was crazy. No seriously, he had medical issues and a NICU stay and emergency surgery after 3 ER visits at 6 weeks old. It was hard to just get to normal. It took about 2 years to finally get through most of the medical stuff and feel like we had it together.
5. What advice can you give parents who are overwhelmed by their child’s medical needs?
First and foremost, you know your kid best. Trust your instincts. If something isn’t right, say it. And don’t be afraid to say it to anyone who will listen. We were first time parents, on top of everything else. So with that came self doubt, but we had several doctors tell us “Mom and Dad know best.” Trust your gut. We were never wrong.
Second, you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out when you need help, whether it is to friends, family, or the CDSPG, find the support you need. Ask someone to go to the doctor’s with you if you need another set of ears or hands. Both of our moms went with me to multiple doctor appointments. I needed someone else to listen and it made a difference.
Thirdly, and the one thing everyone told us, is to continue to make time for yourselves as a couple. Check in with each other. Spend time together. Our families and friends were insistent that we get date nights.
And finally, you will find the new normal. It may take 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years, but you will get there. Like I said before, we have great friends and family. They spent nights with us in hospitals. They did our laundry and made us meals (thanks Moms.) And they pulled us back to normal. During the first 3 months one of the nicest things our friends did was invite us out to eat chicken wings. This is something we had done fairly regularly before C was born. Our lives had been turned upside down, but it was just a simple invitation to wings that said, “We’re here, like we always were and always will be.” It was an invitation back to normal.
6. How does your family spend weekends? What do you like to do for fun together?
We do a lot of projects around the house and like to be outside. Charlie loves to help, especially Daddy and Granddad. We like to have friends and family over for cookouts and bonfires. For the holidays we are looking forward to spending more time with family and friends.