Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Honors 2017 Champions at Annual Gala

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society recognized five outstanding individuals and their employers during the organization’s eighth Annual Night of Champions gala, held Thursday, May 11 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Savannah.

The organization’s 2017 Champions are adult workers who demonstrate exemplary dedication and commitment as employees and are recognized as integral team members at their places of work.

The awards went to:

Nicholas Brown, a groundskeeper at the Savannah International Airport;

Mackenzie Hancock, a sales associate with Polka Dots Gifts & Accessories;

George Gates, a custodian with Federal Law Enforcement Training Center & Goodwill;

Dennis Pickett, a warehouse team member with Fulfillment.com; and

Brenton Scott, a kennel volunteer with Coastal Pet Rescue.

“By living to their fullest potentials, the LDSS Champions are advocates for themselves and others with Down syndrome or other cognitive or developmental challenges, proving themselves truly able,” said the 2017 Night of Champions chairwoman, Allyson Harvin. “Each year, we recognize those Champions who, through their paid or unpaid work, bring about a greater public awareness and understanding of people with Down syndrome and all differently-abled adults.”

The President of LDSS, Candy Bogardus presented the President’s Award to Bonnie Rachael, founder and CEO of Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center. Located in Guyton, Georgia, Faith Equestrian began back in 2006 with the mission of, "We exist to improve the lives of individuals with different abilities through the power of the horse.” The center now has 12 horses, a donkey, and offers two primary programs, the Therapeutic Riding program and the EFL Program. For more information on the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, visit http://faithetc.org.

Over 600 Savannah area business leaders, employees and advocates attended the event. The National Down Syndrome Society’s Chief of Staff delivered welcoming remarks and Savannah’s own Jamie Deen, TV personality and best-selling cookbook author, served as master of ceremonies. Deen, who sits on the LDSS Board, is a strong advocate for hiring individuals with Down syndrome and other different abilities.


NICHOLAS BROWN came to the Savannah International Airport in 2014 and worked in the airport terminal before he was offered a job as a groundskeeper. His supervisor, George Miller, says Brown demonstrates commitment, dedication, personal care and pride in his work. He also has been recognized by WTOC as a Community Champion.

MACKENZIE HANCOCK has worked for Polka Dots Gifts & Accessories for the past year. Hancock has several tasks that she does regularly but is always willing to try something new. Her manager, Jackie Pickering, says Hancock comes to work happily, has an enthusiastic personality and does whatever she is asked to do. Her coworkers say she is incredibly funny, caring, kind and loving and is personable with staff and customers.

GEORGE GATES has worked as a custodian with Goodwill Southeast Georgia for 15 years. He greets his co-workers with a smile, a sincere “hello” and his signature hug. His supervisor, Runella Black, says Gates comes to work early and never hesitates to work late if the facility is short-staffed. He impresses others with his work ethic, compassion, friendly personality and ability to work well under pressure. He demonstrates superlative customer service and enjoys speaking (and taking pictures) with the various dignitaries who tour the building. He also loves sharing his success story of how Goodwill has impacted his life.

DENNIS PICKETT has been employed as a warehouse team member with Fulfillment.com for eight months. His employment specialist, Alina Rickards, says Dennis volunteered in the cafeteria while he still was in school and expressed a desire to become part of the Fulfillment.com workforce. After completing a job assessment, Pickett joined the Fulfillment.com warehouse team.

BRENTON SCOTT has been on the team at Coastal Pet Rescue for a year. His supervisor, Jennifer Taylor, and the facility’s director, Lisa Scarborough say Scott’s family had spent several years trying to find a place where the young man could work on developing his independence. He first was teamed with a senior volunteer to work one day a week in the kennels to provide proper diets, perform all sanitary cleaning and make sure the dogs got daily exercise. After about four months, he started joining coworkers on weekends to attend adoption events to promote the dogs he cared for and to help them find new homes.