Say hello to Joe and Makana…

Joe's original story follows this update!

Indianapolis Resident to be Featured in the Bright Lights of Times Square in New York City in the Annual Video Presentation by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)   

NEW YORK, NY - Joseph Copass-Israels and Kaylea Albertson of Indianapolis, Indiana, will appear in the bright lights of Broadway on Saturday, September 19, as part of the National Down Syndrome Society's (NDSS) annual Times Square Video presentation.  The featured photographs highlight children, teens, and adults with Down syndrome, reminding the world in a very big way about the contributions and milestones of people with Down syndrome.  These collective images promote the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome, which is the mission of NDSS. 

The photo of Joseph Copass-Israels, who happens to have Down syndrome, was selected from over 2,000 entries in the NDSS worldwide call for photos. Over 450 photographs will appear in the video, which will be shown in the heart of Times Square.  

Joseph is pictured with his friend Kaylea before heading off to attend their High School Senior Prom. 

The Times Square Video presentation kicks off Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The video presentation will be followed by the 21st Annual Flagship Buddy Walk® in New York City. This year, Buddy Walk® events will be held in more than 275 cities across the country, as well as select international locations, in and around October with over 300,000 people participating around the globe. For information about the NDSS National Buddy Walk® Program, visit or call 800-221-4602.

About NDSS

The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 375 affiliates nationwide representing over 400,000 Americans who have Down syndrome.  The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities. For more information, visit 

Joe's Original Story:

Meet Joe & Makana!

Four months ago, a very special relationship was formed with the help of ICAN (Indiana Canine Assistance Network). Before Joe met Makana, he struggled with letting others know what he wanted to say due to his diagnosis of verbal apraxia. Joe's advocate informed his mother, Brenda, about the ICAN program, and suggested that a service dog might be able to help him improve his communication skills. 

ICAN's service dogs are trained in Indiana correctional facilities by carefully screened male and female offenders. For two years, the dogs live side-by-side with their handlers inside the correctional facility.

After two and a half years on the waiting list, Joe's family received a phone call that a dog had been identified for Joe. Brenda and Joe went to the correctional facility and met Makana and his handler. When Makana saw Joe, she immediately put his paw up to "shake," and then went and stood by Joe's side. Makana's handler had been training Makana with Joe's picture, so she was able to recognize Joe right away.

Makana completed two more weeks of training at the correctional facility with Joe, every day from 9am to 3pm. While Joe and Makana were in training together, Lt Governor Sue Ellspermann, a big supporter of the ICAN program, stopped by and Joe was chosen to meet her.

Now that Joe has had Makana for four months, his mother has noticed that Joe is more confident and has improved self-esteem. Joe takes responsibility for feeding Makana, brushing his teeth, taking him out, giving him water, and brushing him. Makana goes everywhere with Joe, except school. Joe's attention span is noticeably improved because he has to pay attention to what Makana needs to do while they are out in public. Joe also has to use commands to tell Makana what to do, and this has helped improve his speech. His mother reports that Joe's words are becoming noticeably clearer. 

As a result of their great successes, Joe and Makana have been asked to be ambassadors for the ICAN program, and will be meeting Nascar driver Tony Stewart, an enthusiastic supporter of the ICAN program, this month!