Living with Down syndrome hasn’t stopped Mary Frances Brennick from becoming a vital part of her community, and she is encouraging other people living with disabilities to do the same.

“I’m active in everything I do. I get out there and let my voice be heard,” says the North Sydney resident.

“Don’t be sitting home or sitting on the couch all day watching TV. You need to get out to work, or volunteer. There are so many options to give them more confidence.”

That advice was given to Brennick by her mother, who passed away three years ago. Her older sister, Jean, moved home from Saudi Arabia to live with Brennick at the time and she furthered their mother’s way of thinking.

“She volunteers at the school. She’s an altar server and has been for 30 years,” says Jean Brennick. “She takes art class, bowls, involved with Special Olympics and she plays the fiddle and dances.”

This week is National Down Syndrome Awareness Week. The disability affects one in 800 babies in Canada and commonly affects a person’s learning style and health, although symptoms can vary greatly.

“The message we’re promoting is children or adults living with Down syndrome, it’s to look at the ability they have and not so much focus on what they don’t do, but what they can do,” says Lynn Levatte, president of the Cape Breton Down Syndrome Society.

Levatte says Brennick’s positive attitude and active lifestyle have made her a role model with people living with Down syndrome.

“She’s an amazing lady and we hope that a lot of individuals with Down syndrome or other challenges will look at her example and see what’s she done and accomplished.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore