The History of First Downs For Down Syndrome

The concept of First Downs for Down Syndrome was created by Gene Stallings, best known for his outstanding football coaching career. Gene was assistant coach at Texas A&M, Alabama, and with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. He went onto head coaching duties at Texas A&M, the St. Louis and Phoenix Cardinals and finally, concluded his coaching career as head coach at Alabama.

In his book, Another Season: A Coach’s Story of Raising an Exceptional Son, Gene tells a personal story about winning national championships…and about raising and loving a son born with Down Syndrome. Gene started the FDFDS concept to raise funds and awareness.

In the early ‘90s, local parents learned about the First Downs concept of teaming professional football players with fundraising for Down Syndrome organizations, and thought it was a perfect idea for partnering with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The funds raised by FDFDS support two local organizations: the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City—which provides education and support to individuals with Down Syndrome and their families; and the Down Syndrome Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital, a clinic that addresses the medical and therapeutic needs of children with Down Syndrome from birth through adolescence. FDFDS also provides significant funding for research taking place at Children’s Mercy Hospital that is exploring the link between Down Syndrome and leukemia.

There are hundreds of families in the Greater Kansas City area caring for a loved one with Down Syndrome. Without First Downs for Down Syndrome, these families would not have local access to vital medical, emotional, educational and support services.


The mission of First Downs for Down Syndrome is to raise money for the Down Syndrome Guild, the Down Syndrome Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital and other Down Syndrome organizations; to raise awareness of Down Syndrome and the services of the Clinic and the Guild; and to create positive images of those with Down Syndrome.


Down Syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition. One in every 691 live births, is a child with Down Syndrome, representing approximately 6,000 births per year in the United States. Today, Down Syndrome affects more than 350,000 people in the United States. It is one of the leading clinical causes of intellectual disability in the world.

All people with Down Syndrome have an extra, critical portion of the number 21 chromosome present in all, or some, of their cells. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with the syndrome.

There is a wide variation in the abilities, physical development, behavior and personalities of individuals with Down Syndrome. Each individual has their own unique personality, capabilities and talents.

With appropriate education, therapy, and social support, the majority of individuals with Down Syndrome can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

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