TWINSBURG: Isabell Yehle has Down syndrome and is only 7, but she’s never at a loss for words.
And her mother, Tiffany, a former star Ellet High School softball player-turned-teacher and coach, embraces everything Isabell brings to the Yehle family — and to the world at large.
That included Tiffany Yehle coordinating a recent high school tournament at Twinsburg that helped raise money for families who have children with Down syndrome. The tournament has a partnership with a Northeast Ohio organization called The Up Side of Downs.
In a signature moment for the event at Glen Meadow Park, with 12 varsity teams assembled around the basepaths on one field, Isabell walked from player to player, saying, “Hello, nice to meet you” or “Hey, how are you?”
When the greetings were done, Isabell high-fived or shook hands with approximately 225 people as Tiffany watched from the pitcher’s circle. The event, in its third year, has raised more than $3,000 for families affected by Down syndrome.
It is just one of the activities Tiffany Yehle has taken on to advocate for the needs of children such as Isabell. Tiffany also has a 3-year-old daughter Ella and is celebrating Mother’s Day today in the 25th week of her third pregnancy (a son is due Aug. 23) with her husband, Eric.
Yehle is the former Tiffany McCoy who earned All-Ohio honors and led Ellet to a Division I state title in 1996, the state semifinals in 1997 and a state runner-up finish in 1995. She was also an All-Mid-American Conference player at the University of Akron, majoring in education.
“When we found out she had Down syndrome, we wanted our life to be as normal as possible,” Yehle said. “I went right back to coaching a week after she was born and we got into a routine. I feel with my husband’s support, along with my family and my in-laws, they all have allowed me to still coach and do things. You never do this for the money. You just do it because you love the sport and you want to help the girls succeed and help them become successful young women after they graduate.”
Tiffany and Eric both have college degrees in education, and Tiffany has a master’s. After Isabell was born, the couple agreed whoever got a full-time job offer first would take it and the other would adjust to make the household run efficiently — but with love and lots of support.
Tiffany, 35, teaches at Holden Elementary School in Kent during the day and commutes to Twinsburg for her coaching duties. Eric, 38, tends bar at night at Panini’s Bar & Grille in Canton.
“I usually work a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Eric said. “The only ones that are really tough is getting up on those Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday mornings because I close at 2 a.m. and usually get home and settle down at about 3 a.m. Then I get up at 7 a.m. and get Isabell ready with Tiffany and then Ella and I pal around most of the day.”
Tiffany’s day starts about 7 a.m., and she usually arrives home about 8 or 9 p.m.
“It was overwhelming at first, but I think you have to have a positive outlook that if you think it is going to be the worst-case scenario, then it is,” Tiffany said.
Referring to Isabell, Tiffany said: “If you keep working hard and giving her every opportunity, she really embraces life. She loves life. She wakes up every morning and it is a new day and she is like ‘What are we going to do today?’ She has this attitude where it is the best day ever that she is living.”
At the Up Side tournament, players and coaches wore blue and orange T-shirts that read: “Keep calm, it’s only an extra chromosome” in reference to what causes the genetic condition.
“She is a little social butterfly,” said Tiffany of Isabell. “We did not know with Isabell that she had Down syndrome. We did not do any of the testing because to my husband and me it didn’t matter. When she was born, that is when we found out.
“We went from no words at 3 years old to now she doesn’t stop talking.”
The National Down Syndrome Society says one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, and more than 400,000 Americans currently have it.
Isabell attends Davey Elementary School in Kent.
“Isabell is a mainstreamed student with very limited pullout time,” Tiffany said. “At times she may need a break because she becomes distracted and it is better for her to leave the classroom for her to focus. But her teachers try to keep her in the regular education classroom as much as possible.
“You have those questions, is she going to get married, is she going to be able to drive a car, is she going to live with us for the rest of our life?” Tiffany said. “It was never that we felt sorry for ourselves at anytime. It was this is what we’re dealt with, and that is fine. We embraced it and went on.”
Thankful for support
On Mother’s Day, and every day for that matter, Tiffany is thankful for help on both sides of her family.
“Both my in-laws [Cris and Bob Yehle] and my parents [Crystal and Glenn McCoy] are very close to us,” Tiffany said. “It really takes a whole family to support her [Isabell] and raise any child. Our families help out a lot.”
Grandparents are very much involved, too.
One is Tiffany’s grandmother Sue Brownfield, 80.
Another is Eric’s grandfather Charles Allen, 91. “He cooks spaghetti for her,” Tiffany said. “She loves his spaghetti and he says that is the best thing, to sit there and watch her eat.”
Tiffany’s siblings, Tracee, 33, and Nick, 31, are part of the extended family, too. Tracee has one child (Harper, 2) and Nick and his wife, Jennifer Stottlemyer, have two kids, Bailey, 3, and Aubrey, 1.
“It takes all of us to help the family,” Crystal McCoy said. “I can’t imagine Isabell not being in our lives. When she was born, of course we were not expecting her to have Down syndrome. It was an adjustment at first, but watching Eric and Tiffany has been really amazing. I have the best son-in-law. He allows Tiffany to pursue her interests as far as coaching.”
Glenn McCoy is proud of all of his children, and loves watching his grandchildren.
“You are always thinking, all right which one is going to end up in jail?” Glenn McCoy said with a laugh. “No, I am proud of all of them. Tiffany and Eric have done a fantastic job. The way they work together and coordinate is special. I know from a coaching standpoint, it is tough to get ready for a season and then go through the season, and then to raise a special-needs child has got to be tough on her more so than a normal coach. I know she does everything she can to make sure she is with Isabell and to make sure she is taken care of.”
Isabell and Ella each take classes at Dance Beatz, a studio in Ellet, and have a dance recital set for June 13 at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron.
“I don’t know how they do it,” said Tracee McCoy, who starred in softball for Ellet, the Zips and the Racers professional women’s team. “I kind of envy them. I look at my sister, and I am like, ‘This is who I am going to learn from to be a mom,’ because I am a mom myself. All this stuff I see her do, and the time management, and the discipline and the passion she has as a mother, is what I want to bring home to my child.”
Ellet High participated in the Up Side tournament. Coach Chuck Shuman has known Tiffany from when she was a teenager leading his teams to state softball prominence.
“Isabell couldn’t have been born into a family with two greater parents,” Shuman said. “To see how Tiffany handles being a teacher, softball coach and mother is wonderful. She does an outstanding job and it is a pleasure to watch her little girls mingle with the group.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.