"Me Home"

Southern Illinois and Cardinal Nation lost a champion earlier this week. Sixteen-year-old Emily Gipson lost her two-week battle with a sudden illness that baffled the medical staff at Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

What seemingly began as the flu rapidly advanced to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which defeated every heroic measure to save her life. Emily died Monday night.

To those who knew about Emily, she was a child with special needs. To those who knew her she was a child with special gifts. Emily was born with Down Syndrome. She suffered various disabilities from that condition as well as a hearing impairment. But she also had abilities that made "special" a much more appropriate description than "special needs."

Emily could light a room with her smile. She had no fears and treated everyone as a friend. She was persistent, headstrong, lively, vivacious, spirited, animated and loveable. She was full of fun, full of joy, full of love and full of life.

Emily was a member of the Champions League Softball team coached by Steve Miller in Herrin. The team became the darling of the local media last summer and was featured repeatedly by area newspapers and TV stations.

If you saw one of the TV news segments, you probably saw Emily. She could slide into home like a pro. She could bat with an enthusiasm that kept Coach Miller on his toes. And her cheerleading efforts made everyone feel like a winner. Emily was a champion.

I, too, have a child with Down Syndrome. We met Emily and her mom when Emily and my son Jay were babies. I told Anne last week, "We didn't know then how difficult it would be, did we? Nor did we know how wonderful."

Emily's mom was a model for us. Nothing was too much trouble if it allowed Emily to have friends. Nothing was too difficult if it enriched Emily's life.

During Anne and her husband Ray Mileur's long days and nights by Emily's bedside, Anne kept an online journal through the Children's Hospital's Web site. Her last update on Tuesday morning said, "When Emily would come home from school, she'd open the door and holler, 'Me home!' Last night, she walked through heaven's door and hollered, 'Jesus, me home!'"

When the Champions League and Coach Miller take the field this summer, things will be different. Emily won't be on the field - offering a big grin and high fives for every kid rounding the bases.

Emily slid into home this week. We're all richer for the time she spent with us.






Gail Rissi Thomas is a freelance writer out of Franklin County in Southern Illinois. She can be reached at
937-2019 or e-mail her at pollyagain@aol.com.

This story first appeared in the Southern Illinoisan newspaper.



From the Desk of Ray & Anne Mileur

On behalf of our daughter Emily and our family, we want to thank the following who have helped enriched her life and others by providing extraordinary experiences for people with Down syndrome;

  • The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals
  • Cardinals Care, the charitable arm of the St. Louis Cardinals
  • Marty Hendin, the St. Louis Cardinals Vice-President of Community Relations and the regular appearances of Fredbird in our community
  • The annual Buddy Walk at Busch Stadium sponsored by the National Down Syndrome Society in association with the St. Louis Cardinals
  • The Pujols Family Foundation in all their efforts to promote awareness, provide hope and create supportive and memorable events for the families and children who live with Down Syndrome
  • Deidre Pujols and her annual Mother & Daughter Tea and other events that contribute significantly to the quality of life of families like ours
  • The Champions League, Coach Steve Miller & his staff of dedicated volunteers
  • and all those who reach out and make a difference in a child's life.

The family of Emily Gipson wishes to thank all of you for your kindness and sympathy at a time when it was deeply appreciated.



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