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Bob Merz wanted son Peter to have ‘normal’ life with Down Syndrome, and he helped make that happen

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

It was 30 years ago – and Bob Merz talks as if it was yesterday.

“I was in shock,” said Merz, who is an Accounts Payable Specialist at The Point/Arc. “It was the day after he was born – that’s when we found out.”

That was the day Bob and his wife discovered their newborn son, Peter, was born with Down Syndrome (or called Down’s Syndrome).

Also known as trisomy 21, it is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of chromosome 21. It is usually associated with physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual disability, and characteristic facial features.
The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental ability of an eight-or-nine-year-old child – but can vary widely.

Bob Merz

The road to a normal life for Bob and his family – he also has two daughters – and son Peter was the challenge.

“My wife wanted Peter in the main classroom at school,” said Bob, who attended Elder High School and earned an Accounting Degree at then Thomas More College.

They got their wish – Peter attended Rapid Run Middle School and later Oak Hills High School.

“Peter got integrated with his ninth-grade Social Studies teacher,” Bob said, “and with some struggles made it to graduation.”

Oh, there is more.

Peter Merz was admitted to the TAP – Transition Access Program – at the University of Cincinnati.

“He enrolled, applied, and was accepted,” the proud dad, Bob, said. “The program teaches independent living.”

Peter commuted his freshman year, Bob says, but lived on-campus — Stratford Heights Dorm – for the remaining three years. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2016 – with his Certificate of Completion.

And yes, he’s always been a well-rounded student, with plenty of extra-curricular activity.

Did we mention at Oak Hills High, basketball coach Mike Price welcomed him as the team’s student manager.

“He rode the team bus,” Bob said, “and was invited to all the team dinners.”

At the University of Cincinnati he served as Student Manager for the band – and his senior year he played the drums during the women’s basketball team’s home games.

Today, Peter Merz works at the University of Cincinnati – in the Bearcat Café, daily from 10-2 p.m.

“We moved to Clifton, so he (Peter) could be closer to the University,” said Bob who served as a Senior Accountant for the City of Cincinnati 29 years, before retiring and coming to The Point/Arc on a part-time basis.

“Peter takes the shuttle to work,” Bob said.

And when he is not working, well Peter Merz is quite the athlete. He’s done golf, tennis, softball and basketball.

Dad is involved as well. “I’m presently coaching tennis for the Special Olympics at the Western Fitness and Tennis,” he said. “I’ve been coaching Peter and special Olympians for quite some time.”

He must be doing something right – last June, Peter competed in tennis at the National Games for Special Olympics in Orlando, Florida – an event held every four years. Fifty states and 13 Caribbean countries entered.

Guess what – Peter Merz won a bronze medal in doubles – and placed fourth in the singles competition.

Now that is special – really special.

The Point/Arc was founded in 1972 by a group of parents fighting for the educational rights of their children, who were diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental (I/DD) disability. The mission – to help people with disabilities achieve their highest potential educationally, socially, residentially and vocationally, More than this – The Point/Arc has been an organization that identifies gaps in services and provides care and support to fill these gaps – even when government funding sources are not available.

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