The Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA is establishing a new memorial fund, which will support Down syndrome research, in the name of former Christendom College athletic director Thomas S. Vander Woude. Vander Woude died in September of 2008 by sacrificing his life for his son, Joseph, who has Down syndrome.
According to the Arlington Catholic Herald, the Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Fund Research in Down Syndrome started with a donation by the non-profit down syndrome organization Angels in Disguise, which started in the same year as Vander Woude’s death. The memorial fund will officially launch on March 21, with the help of Mark Bradford, president of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA, an organization dedicated to the research, care, and advocacy of people with genetic intellectual disabilities.
“I think there’s a real compatibility in what Thomas Vander Woude did, the sacrifice he made and our work,” said Bradford, in an interview with the Arlington Catholic Herald. “We believe in the value and inherent dignity of every human person. Every person born with a disability should be treasured.”
Bradford hopes that the memorial fund will eventually disperse $250,000 annually for Down syndrome research and awareness — a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of Vander Woude, and to his son, Joseph, as well. Vander Woude’s efforts to save his son from drowning in 2008 were not in vain, although they did cost him his life; Joseph Vander Woude is alive today, thanks to the heroic efforts of his father.
From 2002-2007, Vander Woude was the athletic director for Christendom College, while also coaching the men’s basketball and soccer teams, and serving as the college’s career development director from 2002-2005 as well. He touched the lives of many in his time at Christendom, and was always more concerned with the type of man or woman a person was becoming than the type of athlete they were.
“Tom Vander Woude was a great man, a devout Roman Catholic, and great friend of the college,” said College President Timothy O’Donnell. “He sent his children here and made an incredible contribution to not only our athletics program, but also to the larger life of the community.”
Since his passing, Christendom College has continually honored the memory of Vander Woude, dedicating the basketball court at Crusader Gymnasium in his name, in addition to holding the Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Golf Tournament annually. Funds from that tournament help support the Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an in-coming freshman scholar-athlete each fall that embodies Vander Woude’s ideals of harmonious achievements in academics, athletics, and leadership.
Please visit here to make a donation to the Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial fund.