When Barbara Desrochers gave birth to her daughter Sept. 1, 1988, in Islip, New York, both mother and daughter were introduced to a unique challenge.
The baby was born with Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality which results in an intellectual developmental disability.
If the setback was supposed to hamper an individual who has the diagnosis, nobody told Michelle Desrochers. Now a member of the Findlay Toyota Business Development Center, where she is an assistant, she’s accomplished a lot in her life.
Michelle Desrochers’ educational achievements include earning a 4.0 grade-point average when she graduated from Coronado High School in 2007, along with a scholarship to the college of her choice.
She then attended Nevada State College from 2007-2009, where she completed the highest level offered in American Sign Language.
Now entrenched in the community, Michelle Desrochers was the first Best Buddy ambassador in Nevada. She’s a performance interpreter who has worked with Garth Brooks, The Jersey Boys, Matt Goss, Veronic and the Australian Bee Gees.
In addition, she was hired by Opportunity Village to train the staff in ASL for three campuses, in case a nonverbal client was facing a life-threatening situation.
After being hired by Findlay Toyota, Michelle Desrochers quickly attracted a following of both employees and customers at the dealership.
“I first met Michelle at Fox 5 when we were featuring Best Buddies on the Findlay Celebrity Spin Zone,” Findlay Automotive Group CFO Tyler Corder said. “She immediately gave me a big hug. She’s one of the most engaging people I’ve ever met. When we were on-air during the interview, she nearly had me in tears as she told how Best Buddies changed her life.”
Best Buddies was started by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989.
“People with IDD suffer from social isolation,” Barbara Desrochers explained. “Michelle’s best buddy has been Rachel Smith of KVVU Fox 5 News for the past 10 years. Michelle and Rachel have a great time together going to movies, having lunch out, getting manicures/pedicures or just hanging out.”
When Corder learned that Michelle Desrochers was looking for a job, he immediately introduced her to dealership General Manager John Barr, who hired her.
“She is our goodwill, feel-good ambassador,” Barr said. “A positive energy lights up the showroom and the hearts of everyone she encounters.”
Barbara Desrochers said her daughter is very outgoing and sees the best in everyone.
“I think it’s her personality,” said Barbara Desrochers, who wrote the book, “A Gift Called Michelle.” “She is fiercely competitive and strives for perfection.
“The fear of the unknown, having a child with Down syndrome, turned into our greatest blessing. Living with Michelle is seeing life through rose-colored glasses. As much as she learns from us, we have learned so much more from her about unconditional love. She is a mirror to what God’s love is to us.”
Michelle is now working hard to gain Best Buddy Champion of the Year honors. The Best Buddy Gala will be held Oct. 13 at The Mirage. Tickets can be purchased online at www.BestBuddiesChampion.org/Nevada.
Those wanting to donate to Michelle’s cause can do so at www.BestBuddiesChampion.org/Nevada/Supporting/#Michelle
The person who raises the most money for the organization will be crowned Champion of the Year.