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December 10, 2003

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Publication Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A portrait of hope A portrait of hope (December 10, 2003)

A photo of an 18-month-old Menlo Park boy playing with his dad flashed in bright lights on a giant screen in New York's Times Square earlier this fall in a video shown as part of the National Down Syndrome Society's awareness campaign.

Riley Dehne's photo, chosen from almost 1,000 entries nationwide, was one of 200 shown in the video -- an expression of the hope, inclusion, laughter and acceptance of Down Syndrome children, their families and their friends.

Riley's mom, Andi Dehne, took the photo. She tells her personal story in the following article, "Living the Life of Riley."

"In high school I loved a song which included a line about 'living the life of Riley'. I have loved the name since then and was thrilled when Jeremy (her husband) agreed to that name for our baby," says Andi.

Ms. Dehne, with her seemingly boundless energy, is well-known in the community. She grew up here, attended St. Joseph's School and taught kindergarten for eight years at Laurel School in the Menlo Park City School District. Her parents, Perry and Linda Vartanian, live in Woodside -- her dad was on the Woodside Town Council, serving a term as mayor.

Ms. Dehne says she's fortunate to have "a huge support system" of family and friends. Since she returned to her job in August to teach kindergarten part time at Laurel School, her mom takes care of Riley, bringing him to occupational therapy every Thursday and a play group on Fridays. Her husband's mother, Patricia Major, drives from Carmel Valley two days a month to help out with Riley's care.

Riley's dad Jeremy, a software engineer at Adobe Systems in San Jose, was able to change his schedule to go to work later on Thursday and Friday mornings, the days his wife teaches.

Ms. Dehne can't say enough about the "amazing support system" at CAR (Community Association for Rehabilitation Inc. in Palo Alto), where every one celebrates even the smallest accomplishment of the children.

Returning to work has been a balancing act for Ms. Dehne. She's very busy, but says she thrives on it.

Her principal, Nancy Hendry, says she's delighted to have Ms. Dehne back as part of the "dynamic duo," job-sharing with Jeanne McCann in room K- 3. "We're all enjoying getting to know Riley -- he's part of our Laurel family," says Mrs. Hendry.

--By Marjorie Mader

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