Corbin Chanter will be a key figure at the upcoming Buddy Walk
If Corbin Chanter had his way, the headline for this story would be: 'Batman sweeps into Lake Oswego; saves the day.'
At least, that's the way he wishes events would play out, if only he could convince people that the boy inside his caped costume really is Batman.
Alas, he's found out - his ever-present grin gives him away.
'He's constant entertainment,' said Scarlett Chanter, as Batman ran inside their Lake Oswego home to 'find' Corbin. 'This could go on for hours.'
Scarlett and her husband Trey can't imagine their lives without Corbin, an outgoing, upbeat 16-year-old who was born with Down syndrome - a chromosome abnormality - at a time when doctors wondered if their joy shadowed denial.
As long as he was healthy, Scarlett said their happiness was real and lasting.
'Anyone with a number of children knows that the theory that your child is a malleable piece of clay that you can turn into whatever creature you want is ridiculous,' Scarlett said. 'He came into this world pre-packaged with certain challenges, and he is not my most difficult child.'
In the Chanter household, in fact, the words 'Down syndrome' have never been accepted as a way to define Corbin.
It's another one of Corbin's special characteristics that adds to who he already is - a Lake Oswego High School freshman, an actor, a superhero enthusiast and a proud TaeKwon-Do gold medalist.
And just as she attends her daughter's horse shows or her other sons' athletic and art events, Scarlett will accompany Corbin and his friends to the annual Down Syndrome Network's Buddy Walk on Oct. 8, where they will walk together.
The event, which begins at Millennium Park in downtown Lake Oswego, aims to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and raise awareness about the condition.
'It's a great time. The whole family goes out … Last year, Blake put me up (on his back), my leg was so tired,' Corbin said, referring to his older brother.
The Chanters view Corbin, who gave the official Buddy Walk welcome last year, as an advocate in a community where they believe those with Down syndrome could become more visible and accepted.
'If you meet somebody with (Down syndrome), you know them and you can become friends with them and have a relationship,' Scarlett said. 'You get to know people, not labels.'
For the most part, Corbin doesn't realize he's any different than his peers at LOHS. When Scarlett asks Corbin if he's aware that he has Down syndrome, he replies with a matter-of-fact 'No.'
Once, a few years ago, Corbin turned to her during a bus ride to Disneyland and whispered 'Mommy, that boy over there looks like me.' It was the last time Corbin mentioned any connection to Down syndrome.
Since the time he was three years old, Corbin has been fully included in all normal childhood activities, including taking a shot at public education.
'He needs to be surrounded by people who are doing things we want him to be doing, and role modeling for him,' Scarlett said. 'He needs to function in society.'
Scarlett and Trey expect Corbin, like their other four children, to become an independent adult with goals and aspirations.
'I think he'll make a good worker,' Scarlett said of Corbin, who volunteers at the Lake Oswego Farmer's Market doggy daycare.
At LOHS, teachers modify their curriculum for Corbin, who's taking freshman English, earth science, physical education and acting this year. He will play a character in an upcoming LOHS production of 'Hello, Dolly!' and hopes to go out for wrestling and swimming.
He loves school, where he hopes to 'learn, listen … and make mom proud.'
The Chanters - who home schooled Corbin for the past two years to keep him out of a self-contained classroom - are appreciative of the district's support.
Like most mothers of children with Down's, Scarlett has strong opinions about education. She believes all children, regardless of their challenges, can be included in a public education system as long as the school's administrative philosophy is right.
'My experience is that adults see problems and kids see solutions,' Scarlett said. 'Kids can come up with ways to get around whatever the issue is.'
In a 'special needs' classroom, children with Down's may get extra attention, but 'someone is deciding what these kids are capable of,' she added.
As far as Corbin goes, he believes he's capable of anything.
Telling him 'no' doesn't seem to work, as his parents demonstrated on a recent evening when they said homework takes priority over TV.
With humor and a smile, Corbin always tries to win them over.
'He's a salesman,' Trey Chanter said. 'He's definitely blessed in some areas.'
Corbin fills dozens of notebooks with colorful drawings while he watches TV, perhaps his favorite pastime. After the show ends, Corbin can recite the entire plot scene-by-scene. Corbin's memory is impeccable, his parent said.
'He's a walking Palm Pilot,' Scarlett said. 'He can tell you the minutest detail from any movie he's seen … If only I can tap into that for math and reading.'
In the past 16 years, Corbin's challenges have never held him back from being himself and having fun. And when he accomplishes a goal, whether small or large, everyone in Corbin's life celebrates.
'We've never talked down to him,' Scarlett said. 'We've always treated him like any other kid.'
The sky, appropriately, seems to be the limit for Batman.
Registration for the Buddy Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. The walk begins at 11:30 a.m.
Suggested individual registration is $15; couple registration is $30 and family registration is $45. The fee includes T-shirts and a post-walk lunch. To register online or make a donation, go to www.dsnor.org. For more information, call 503-635-4153.