To say that Lindsey Pazerunas, 23, leads a full life is an understatement. Lindsey, who recently starred as Dorothy in the UPS for DownS production of The Wizard of Oz, is a cancer survivor who works two days a week as a server at an assisted living facility, and volunteers with preschoolers two days a week at Holy Family Catholic Academy, all the while keeping a buzzing social calendar.
“My mom can’t keep up with it all. I’m a very social person,” Lindsey says. In addition to attending events through WDSRA and UPS for DownS, and doing speaking engagements as a self-advocate for the National Association for Down Syndrome, she’s part of a monthly Bunco group, works out three to four times a week at the YMCA, and has a boyfriend, a circle of friends, and a family who all like to hang out.
In five years, Lindsey hopes to be working with children. “It’s my life goal,” she says. For more from Lindsey, read the rest of Sam’s interview:
Tell us about the tryouts for the musical. Were you nervous? “No. I’m never nervous, because I have a lot of experience doing plays. This is number 11 for me. I started in 2008. But I haven’t had a lead in five years, not since I was Belle in Beauty and the Beast, so I worked really hard this year.”
How did you memorize all those lines? Any tips for others? “I have a voice coach who helped prepare me for the role, and I also had a friend who came over two days a week to read the lines with me. She would have the script, and I would try to say the lines without the script.”
What was the best thing about being in the musical? “I loved every single thing about it—all the songs, costumes, dances, but I think the ruby slippers were my favorite. They were character shoes, covered in red glitter.”
Where did you go to school? “I went to Fremd High School in Palatine. I also did one year at Harper College. I really enjoyed my self-advocacy and communications classes. I am a self-advocate, so those classes helped me in ways to self-advocate, to talk more, and louder and with clarity. I speak about four or five times a year to promote awareness of people with Down syndrome and share my life experiences.”
Where do you work? "I work at Lake Barrington at an assisted living center. I’m a server. They really enjoy me being a part of their team. I work on Sundays from 10:15 until 3. I take drink orders, and see if they would like salad with dinner. I also take dessert orders as well. On Mondays, I work dinner hour, from 3:45 until 8. I’ve also started taking trays to people’s rooms. I have a test to get ready for, so I have to study."
What are the best and worst things about your job? “The best thing is that is that I make a lot of acquaintances. One lady even asked if she could adopt me! The worst thing is that Sunday mornings can be hectic—and this year, I had to work on Christmas day and Christmas Eve.”
How do you help at home? “Besides taking care of my dog, I never say no to anything. If there are dishes to be done, I’ll do it. Whatever it is, even getting the mail, I’ll do it. I never say no to anything. Sometimes I think I don’t want to do it, but I don’t say it. It’s just the way I am . . . Love is an important part of my family.”
What does Down syndrome mean to you? “It has meant a lot to me to live a normal life and to be part of a family, and not be treated differently. My parents have always treated me like part of the family. I wasn’t different, and that has made a huge impact on who I am today. I am able to do many things today—a lot like my siblings and my peers.”
Who’s your hero and why? “My mom is my hero. She’s my cheerleader. We are each other’s best friends. I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was six years old. I had to do all these hospital visits, all the pokes. I didn’t really know what cancer was at that age. Now I do know about it. I’ve been a survivor for 17 years. My mom has always been there for me.”