The Blessing of Joy

by Levi Martinka, Hammer Volunteer

My sister Joy has Down syndrome. Some may consider having a sibling with a disability to be a burden. In my mind, it is, and always has been, a blessing. Despite being my younger sister, she has greatly shaped my life (whether she knows it or not). Because she is only three years younger, I in fact, don’t know life any other way. I like to think that my life is completely normal. I treat her like a normal “little sister.” I get under her nerves and she gets under mine.

Joy and Levi typical teensHowever, I know there are extra “challenges” that come with having a sibling with Down syndrome, or any disability for that matter. But, these “challenges” might actually be blessing in disguise. When I look at my life and try to imagine it without Joy, it is radically different. Currently, I am involved in many ways with individuals with disabilities. At Eden Prairie High School, I am a student advisor for a club that provides integrative support for students with special needs, and I am on the dance committee that organizes the “Prom” for those with disabilities. Outside of school, I volunteer with Hammer Residences as an exercise partner. Without Joy in my life, I’m not sure I would be part of any of these organizations. I also don’t know if I would have the friends that I have today. Worst of all, I likely wouldn’t have the values that are important to me and make me who I am.

Next year, I am off to college to start a whole new chapter of my life. As difficult as it will be to live away from my family and the things that I have come to know best, I know I am fully capable of being on my own. I have learned to be compassionate, diligent, understanding and, most importantly, patient. Because of Joy and the numerous experiences I have been a part of, I have met many different people, both disabled and not. There is a common denominator I have noticed in all people – we all want to be understood. Wherever I end up for the next few years, I want to stay involved with those less understood in the community.

Joy and Levi

It will be hard to be away from my family. However, I think my sister might have a harder time with the transition. I can guarantee that every night she will ask: “How many ‘sleeps’ until Levi comes back?” I know it is her dream to be independent and live by herself (along with being a rock-star). It will be hard for me and my younger brother to go off to college knowing Joy wants to so badly. Although I do not know what is in store for her future, my biggest hope is that she feels important and needed. Joy may not know it, but she has made a lasting impact on our community, especially on me. I want her to know this and feel loved.


  1. Anita Victor

    Awesome! So touching!

  2. Ginger Venable

    I’m so glad to know Joy, Levi, Ann and Bob. They have inspired me for the last 10 years.

    • Terriann Matejcek

      Thanks, Levi for your words and service. There is no doubt that you come from an exceptional family.

  3. Lynda

    Wonderfully written. Beautifully told. The blessings you hold, you also give to others.

  4. Kristen Kerber

    Levi, You are the most awesome big brother and an exceptional role model not only for your peers but for all of us adults who have been watching you grow up. The world could use more Levi’s and Joy’s (and Aaron’s!). You must make God smile a thousand times a day. Thank you:-) Mrs. Kerber

  5. Julane Rose

    Joy – what a perfect name for your sister, Levi…. thanks for your heartfelt story

  6. Stefanie Miller

    What a great sory. Thanks for shaing it with us

  7. Rhonda Collins

    Wonderfully written Levi! I’m so proud to know you and your family. You have set a great example in everything you have done. Blessings to all of you.

  8. Suzanne

    Inspring! What amazing insight you have, Levi and I appreciate that you shared it with usl

  9. Addie Motzko

    Thanks for sharing this Levi. I think it’s really important for me and the rest of the staff who work in this field to hear from family and the people who know and care for the individual we support best. The more I know an individual the better I can support them.


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