A WORTHING restaurant owner is hoping to turn heartbreak into a helping hand after his baby son was born with Down’s Syndrome.
Walter Manenti, part-owner of the Brio restaurants in Marine Place, Worthing, and Brunswick Road, Shoreham, has vowed to raise as much money as possible for the local Down’s Syndrome community after he and his wife Lorraine were shocked to find their new-born son had the condition at birth.
By raising money through the sale of raffle tickets at his restaurants and a four-day charity fund-raising stretch at the end of December, the 44-year-old dad hopes to raise a good sum of money to distribute among community groups dedicated to the care of Down’s Syndrome sufferers.
Walter said: “I want this to be a real community effort, and give the money to causes who might sometimes get overlooked, so people help others in their community.”
Walter’s son Diego was born in August. Tests during the pregnancy did not pick up he had Down’s Syndrome.
Walter said he and Lorraine were “completely shocked” when they discovered.
“Lorraine noticed some of the signs after Diego was born, so they carried out more tests on him, and confirmed he did have an extra chromosome,” said Walter.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking, because as a parent you want the best for your children.”
Diego was born weighing only 5lb. He has three sisters and four brothers.
Walter said: “We have come to terms with it now and we take it a day at a time. Everything is at a slightly slower pace. At four months he is now 11lb, and all the clothes we bought him before he was born are now starting to fit.
“But we are optimistic for the future. We are very lucky Diego does not have heart or kidney problems like many Down’s Syndrome sufferers. We are sure he will make us proud, just like our other children.”
He added: “Once you have been touched by something personally, you start seeing more and more situations like yours just walking down the street. So I’m hoping we can really make a difference – something which will benefit Down’s Syndrome children and adults for years to come.”
To kick-start the fund, the Brio restaurants are donating 10 per cent of every bill taken from December 27 to December 30 to the Down’s Syndrome fund, as well as donating all the proceeds taken from the raffle, which includes prizes such as a giant panda, £100 to spend at Brio and a bottle of champagne.
Walter and the staff at Brio are keen to develop the fund-raising into something which involves the whole community.
One pub has already volunteered to take part. “The landlord at the Cricketers in Southwick has also agreed to help us raise money, and it would be great if other businesses want to take part,” said Walter.
“We’re also hoping members of the community will give us ideas for fund-raisers, or for charities or groups the money can go towards.”
He added: “We want this to be a real community effort, and hopefully it will grow into something big, which can really help local people with Down’s Syndrome.”