Seated in the stands behind the University of Georgia basketball team at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, 21-year old Doug Penning looks like any other fan cheering the team on to hopeful victory. But to those that know him, they also see a young man that has appeared in a movie about giving, serves as an acolyte at the Catholic Center at UGA, works hard at his full time job, and come tomorrow night will hopefully earn his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Oh, and Doug has Down Syndrome.
I have known Doug from the time he was six years old, meeting him and his family when I moved to Athens in 1994. He is always ready with a smile on his face and a hug for his friends. When I saw that the Athens Banner-Herald had his story above the fold on the front page this morning, I could not have been happier for Doug and his whole family.
Here is an excerpt from the article.
Black Belt is Tae Kwon Do Student's Latest Achievement
That sums up Penning. The 21-year-old will test for his black belt in the martial art Friday night.
The black belt is just another prize Penning, who has Down syndrome, has earned. He already has the praise of his teacher, the respect of his classmates and the love of his family.
Penning also has a date for Valentine's Day, a job at Chick-fil-A and a wealth of hobbies.
But tae kwon do is more than a hobby, he says. It's his passion.
It is a great article about a truly great young man, and is well worth the read.
Congrats to Doug and his family! The road may be long and sometimes hard, but the payoff is one that cannot be measured except in the love and support you have for each other, resulting in all that Dougie has achieved.