Kentucky fraternity initiates first member with Down Syndrome

Article by By Loretta Stafford, University of Kentucky

When Brack Duncan met Josh Banks three years ago at a clogging competition, he had no idea that they would someday break barriers together.

On Sept. 24, Josh Banks became the newest member of FarmHouse Fraternity at the University of Kentucky. In doing so, he became the first man with down syndrome to be inducted into a social fraternity.

The pair’s friendship blossomed when Duncan started working with STRIDE, a therapeutic recreation program for teens and adults with learning or developmental disabilities.

Initially, the two would meet for five hours each week as Duncan tutored Banks in reading, writing and math. The car rides from Winchester, where STRIDE is based, to Lexington allowed the pair ample time to get to know one another on a personal level.

“The more we hung out, the more it turned into a friendship and then a brotherhood,” Duncan said. Now, he’s proud to call Josh his best friend and ‘little brother.’

The two frequently meet outside of tutoring now. They travel to Mount Sterling for ice cream, go to church together, and even went to the Faith Hill and Tim McGraw concert over the summer.

Banks would also attend FarmHouse events with Duncan, making his own connections with other members of the fraternity. This April, he performed a clog dance alongside Duncan at Kentucky’s Got Talent, a philanthropy event hosted by Delta Delta Delta. A video of the event went viral and led the pair to partner with Shop Local Kentucky — raising over $5,000 for down syndrome research.

The more time Josh spent with Brack, the stronger Josh’s bond with other members of FarmHouse became.

“I think that a lot of people were intrigued. They started to hang out with him and see how cool he really is — he likes to do all the stuff they like to do and started inviting him to be part of things. The more he got to do, the more they felt he was their friend, too.”

When Brack presented the idea of initiating Josh into FarmHouse to chapter president Benjamin Bohannon and other members of the fraternity, he was met with unparalleled excitement.

“They saw the importance of it and they knew it would really mean something to me and him and that it could really have an impact on the chapter and UK and really the entire community,” he said, “We took that first step and now, we’re here — he’s a FarmHouse man now.”