I learned a lot from producing this story. It took a long time to find Peggy and entering the world of Down syndrome was totally new for me. To get to know Peggy, I spent a lot of time with her over the course of a couple of months. I hung out at her house alot, I went with her to the gym, to her job assembling packets of plastic rings, and I even accompanied her on one of her dates with her boyfriend. I wanted to know what life was like for Peggy, What are her dreams? What are her challenges? How does Peggy’s Down syndrome affect other members of her family? Pulling the story together was another challenge and a privilege. I gave a lot of thought to how to tell Peggy’s story in a way that respected her and that honestly painted a portrait of how she lives her daily life.

Peggy’s Dreams: Living life with Down syndrome won a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2015, and was produced with funding from KFAI and Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Note: The 1952 educational film heard in my story, In Our Care: Woodward State Hospital and School, is part of a 13-week series of documentaries about Iowa’s state institutions. The entire In our Care series is archived online at the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities website (mn.gov/mnddc).


READ the intro to Peggy’s Dreams HERE:

In this award-winning, 30-minute radio documentary, I present an intimate portrait of Peggy Mehen. Peggy wants to make some changes in her life. She wants a new job. She wants to live independently. And her biggest dream is to be a supermodel. The fact that she is a 40 year-old woman with Down syndrome has little impact on what she believes she can achieve. As a child growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, Peggy belongs to a first generation of children with Down syndrome to be mainstreamed into schools–paving the way for today’s generation of parents and people with Down syndrome who continue to push boundaries and demand greater inclusion and better social and medical supports in the community.

Peggy and her older sister, Fran hanging out at Peggy\'s apartment. Photo © 2014 Marisa Helms
Peggy and her older sister, Fran hanging out at Peggy's apartment. Photo © 2014 Marisa Helms

Peggy working out with her trainer.
Photo © 2014 Marisa Helms
Peggy working out with her trainer. Photo © 2014 Marisa Helms