It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and Misty Giles Holmes just came from a very unique training meeting — the first of its kind here in North Texas. She, along with other parents belonging to the Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas (DSPNT), is participating in the local rollout of the Parents First Call Program, a plan that will ensure every family in the North Texas area who has received either a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis of Down syndrome has the support of a member from the DSPNT.
A step up from customary support groups, this program is composed of moms and dads who can share their own different experiences with the diagnoses of their children.
Misty’s youngest daughter, 4-year-old Alison Faith, has Down syndrome, so naturally this program resonates strongly with the Grapevine resident. In fact, she had a direct hand in bringing the program to North Texas after she first heard about it in March during a conference in Washington, D.C. (she is also a National Down Syndrome Society Ambassador), where she has been going for the past three years to meet one-on-one with congressmen and congresswomen to advocate for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.
Misty’s presence in the Down syndrome community is undoubtedly prominent, but even those outside of the DSPNT and NDSS realm may recognize her. In 1999, Misty reigned as Miss Texas Teen USA. And then there was her stint on the reality TV show Survivor: Panama. But today, more than a decade later, things have settled down (not to be confused with slowed down).
She has been married to her husband, Nicholas Holmes, for 11 years and is a proud mama to two girls, Alison and 6-year-old Avangeline Grace. Aside from serving as president of the DSPNT, Misty works as an engineer in the aerospace industry.
That job title may conjure visions of complex scenarios (picture: think tanks, copious hours of research and tech trials), but life at home is also filled with its own set of challenges. Raising two girls isn’t easy when one needs extra-special care.
“It was quite tough to support Alison as she was preparing for and subsequently recovering from open-heart surgery at 9 weeks old, while remaining engaged with my curious 2-year-old who was potty training,” Misty recalls. “It felt a little unfair to talk to my 2-year-old about her sister having her heart fixed by the doctors. Avangeline would attend doctors’ visits and ask for them to fix her heart too. [It] brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.”
Striving to strike a healthy balance, Misty and Nicholas ensure both girls get the attention they’re due, making it a point to spend one-on-one time with each child, especially Avangeline. But while the two may get ample attention from mom and dad, the sisters have their own unique dynamic.
“Avangeline and Alison are very close,” says Misty. “They share a bedroom and they love it. Sometimes they play at bedtime, but sometimes when one girl is tired and the other is not, it can cause a challenge. Recently, Nicholas and I asked Avangeline if she would like to move into her own room and she said, ‘No, I’ll miss Alison.’ I hope they share a room until high school.”
So how does a typical day start at the Holmes household? Like clockwork. School starts promptly at 7:45am. Before heading to her office, Misty drops Alison off to her Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD), while Nicholas walks Avangeline to her school nearby. Alison then rides the bus from her three-hour GCISD PPCD to The Children’s Courtyard in Grapevine, where she is fully immersed in a typical preschool class. Misty finishes work in time for pickup and after-school activities. They make it home right before 6pm.
Come dinnertime, both Avangeline and Alison become Mom’s little helpers in the kitchen, assisting with dinner-prep duties where they can. But Misty tries to do meals in advance when she has the opportunity. “Because we have a tight schedule, I try to prep dinners the evening before or cook several on Sunday afternoon to help make the week go more smoothly,” she shares. “On Mondays, I leave work early to get the girls because Alison has physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) from 5:30–6:30pm. [On those days] Nicholas has dinner on the table for us when we get home.”
Hubby Nicholas, or “Super Dad” as Misty calls him, is as hands-on as mom. Misty’s work requires a fair amount of travel (something she hopes will wane in the future), so when she has to take off, Nicholas handles everything on his own. From school drop-offs and pickups to therapy sessions to swim lessons and more, Nicholas stays on top of family matters alongside his work as an account manager for JPS Graphics in Dallas.
On weekends, everything comes to a halt. Getting ready for school and work is happily replaced by lazy mornings and snuggling in bed as a family. The hours are filled with things like picnics and playtime at the local park. They all attend Special Needs Gymnastics class on Saturdays — a fun physical therapy class that Alison loves, where Avangeline gets to join in as well. And Sundays are always reserved for R&R and attending church.
It’s a full life, but despite all the struggles and extra effort that comes with working, volunteering and raising a family, a sense of extreme gratitude is something that Misty will always have. “I am thankful for Down syndrome,” she says. “I love that extra chromosome. My girls make me a better person, and Alison having Down syndrome has given my life purpose.”