Connexions Blog

"Building stronger communities by sharing inspiration, advice, and best practices that work".



Ds-connex Presents: The Third Annual Summer of FUN-draising Contest!

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

The lazy days of summer are here again! While many of us are spending time enjoying family vacations, backyard barbecues, and trips to the community pool, team captains are also busily crafting new ways to raise money for their Down syndrome walk teams. Team fundraisers have a key role in supporting Down syndrome walks. Our research reports show that 60% of top team captains host fundraisers for their teams.

How are you raising funds for your Down syndrome walk team? We want to hear from you!

From Monday, July 24th to Friday, August 11th, send us a photo from one of your team fundraisers and a short description of how the event impacts your team for the chance to win one of three $100 donations to your walk team from ds-connex. Team fundraisers can come in all shapes and sizes, including golf outings, pie in the face contests, garage sales, kickball tournaments and more. The sky is the limit, and we are excited to learn about your fundraisers!

2017 Summer of Fundraising

Photo submissions can be emailed to ds-connex at contests@ds-connex.org. Images can be from a fundraising event for this year’s walk or last year’s walk event. By submitting a photo, you are giving ds-connex permission to share your submission via the Connexions blog and across multiple social platforms in order to raise awareness and appreciation of your fundraising efforts on behalf of the Down syndrome community. All submitted fundraising ideas will be shared on the ds-connex social media outlets with the goal of inspiring the Down syndrome community with creative fundraising ideas for team captains across the country. (Please note: When submitting an entry from a mobile device, please be advised that the “connex” segment of our email address may be autocorrected, preventing your entry from reaching us. If you do not receive a confirmation of your entry, please try sending it again.)

One entry will be randomly selected each Friday through August 11th (7/28/17, 8/4/17, and 8/11/17) to win a $100 donation from ds-connex to their Down syndrome walk team. The winning entries will be announced each Friday at 2pm Eastern. The earlier you enter, the more chances you have to win!

We look forward to seeing and sharing your Summer of Fun-draising entries!


Walk Team Spotlight - Preston’s Pack of the GRADSA Buddy Walk

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

The 20th Annual GRADSA Buddy Walk® will take place on Saturday, September 30th. The Green River Down Syndrome Association has a goal of raising $70,000 to fund programming and support for the local Down syndrome community, and helping them do that is Preston’s Pack, led by Kay Peach.

GRADSA Buddy Walk Preston's Pack

Preston is three years old and loves to dance, sing, and read. He is also a huge fan of Paw Patrol; he asks for the show by name and will watch it for as long as he is allowed. Preston is very proud of his new found skill, jumping, and has also made great improvements in his speech. Preston’s family loves to watch him dance along with his favorite music, and they participate in the GRADSA Buddy Walk® in honor of this sweet boy.


This will be the Peach family’s second year at the GRADSA Buddy Walk®; they initially got involved after learning about GRADSA and attending events. Preston’s dad, Richard, has also joined the GRADSA board. “It’s fun to be around other families with kids with Down syndrome,” Kay shared. “It’s also very informative and comforting.”


GRADSA Buddy Walk Preston and sister

Kay utilizes Facebook to invite people to join her team or make donations. She also texts close family and friends to extend an invitation to the event. Having found that corporate sponsorships are the most successful fundraising tactic for her team, Kay hands out the sponsorship information to “any and every local business” that will let her do so. She has learned that “many businesses already have money set aside for local events like this and it just takes being asked in order to get a piece of it.”


Kay has also partnered with her gym, EDGEFiT, to do a charity challenge. Each time someone checked in to the gym on social media and used the hashtag #prestonstrong, the gym added to their donation. After six weeks, they did a family boot camp and charged $10/family. They had a great turnout, and all of the proceeds benefitted GRADSA.

Finding that repetition is key to fundraising, Kay will post on social media or send a text once a week to remind her family and friends to register or donate. As the walk gets closer, she recommends posting every day. Knowing that people are busy and may intend to donate but forget, Kay finds these reminders helpful in securing donations. She posts photos of Preston and true stories of his accomplishments and progress, so that she is not only raising money but also awareness. “I try to include facts and other things they may not know about Preston and about Down syndrome to increase awareness and education,” she explained. She also makes a point of expressing her gratitude and appreciation when someone does register or make a donation.

GRADSA Buddy Walk Preston team

To encourage a new team captain, Kay would tell them how easy it is to raise money for their team. “The website is easy to use; it’s easy to post donations yourself and easy for your friends and family to use.”

Kay hopes that being a member of Preston’s Pack will raise awareness of “the difficulty as well as the immense joy of having a Preston in your life.” She looks forward to all of the fun activities at the walk, and remembers the dancing from last year’s walk. “That was great,” she shared.

To learn more about the 20th Annual GRADSA Buddy Walk®, please visit their Stride fundraising site: http://www.ds-stride.org/gradsabuddywalk.


This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: support@ds-connex.org.


Walk Team Spotlight - Team Riley of the East Texas Buddy Walk

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Saturday, October 14th, the East Texas Down Syndrome Group will celebrate their 16th Annual Buddy Walk® of East Texas. With a goal of raising $65,000 this year, the ETDSG relies on the leadership of their team captains to assist with the fundraising efforts. We had the pleasure of chatting with Kay and Tommy Stout, captains of Team Riley, to learn more about the event.

ETDSG Riley Football

The Stouts’ family and friends walk in honor of 10 year old Riley, who will enter the 5th grade in August. A fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Riley enjoys football and basketball, and was recently promoted from a white belt to a yellow belt in Samurai Jiu Jitsu. He also likes the Marvel superheroes, and counts tacos among his favorite foods. Riley makes his family giggle almost every day, and Kay describes him as “a joy who is fun to be around” as well as a “little ladies’ man.”

Team Riley has participated in the Buddy Walk® of East Texas since 2008. They heard about the event from the ETDSG and thought they would give it a try. Initially, Kay and Tommy enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and now as Riley is getting older, he also looks forward to the event each year. The Stouts became involved with the support group because they wanted to be part of a group that they could talk to and learn more about the “journey of raising a child with Down syndrome.” Originally, the Buddy Walk® was just a bonus, but now they enjoy the walk so they can educate the community about the “importance of acceptance of others, regardless of one’s ability.”

To invite people to join their team, the Stouts create a fundraising profile on the ETDSG’s Stride page and then use their Facebook pages to spread the word about the event. Their most successful fundraising strategy has been sharing their team information on their Facebook pages, as this has allowed them to reach friends that they might not otherwise have thought to talk to about the walk. They have even seen members of Team Riley share the information to their own family and friends, resulting in additional support. The Stouts also use word of mouth to let neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are not on Facebook know of the event. This year, Riley is the 2017 Goodwill Ambassador for the ETDSG Buddy Walk®, and the Stouts are hoping that this honor will encourage more family and friends to support their team and turn out for the event.


ETDSG Riley Yellow Belt

The Stouts hope that the members of Team Riley will have fun with them on the day of the walk, but also “realize how important their contribution is to the East Texas Down Syndrome Group and community.” The funds raised help so many locally, and allow them to provide beneficial supports to the group members. Kay also gives them examples of how the money they raise funds “scholarships to conferences that will educate parents, family outings for members to participate in fun activities, and provide financial assistance to families who may have a specific need for their child that could otherwise be a financial burden.”

To families who have not yet participated in the Buddy Walk® of East Texas, the Stouts offer this advice: “Start small and go enjoy the event. See what the trend is and meet other people at the walk. Build connections and build your team slowly year by year.”

The Stouts’ favorite memory from the walks is when the firemen pass out medals to the individuals with Down syndrome as they finish the event: “Riley’s face lights up every year as that medal is placed around his neck.” We can’t wait to see photos from this year’s event!

This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: support@ds-connex.org.


Walk Team Spotlight - Buddies Inc of the Columbus Buddy Walk

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On October 1st, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio will celebrate its 16th annual Columbus Buddy Walk®. Hoping to raise $450,000 this year, DSACO is getting help from a new team on the scene: Buddies Inc, led by 11 year old team captain Addie Kearns. Addie is the youngest team captain for the Columbus event, and she has an older brother with Down syndrome. We had the pleasure of chatting with Addie about her team, which just recently exceeded its $2500 goal.

Columbus Buddy Walk - Buddies Inc

Addie served as a co-captain for several years for her brother’s Buddy Walk team, Team Alex, and she helped raise money for that team. This year, she decided that she wanted to raise awareness on behalf of all people with Down syndrome, so she was encouraged to start her own team. (Her younger brother is now acting as co-captain of Team Alex, and he hopes to one day lead his own team, too!) Addie decided that her fundraising goal would be $2500, because that is the amount the Columbus team captains need to raise in order to get your team’s shirts customized with the team name.


So far, Addie’s most successful team fundraiser was a spirit week at her school. She worked with her principal and teachers to plan a different theme for each day during the week: PJ Day, Silly Sock Day, Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character Day, Favorite Sports Team Day, and Dress Like a Teacher Day. The students and staff were encouraged to donate $1 for every day they dressed up, but a donation was not required to participate in the fun theme days. Spirit Week raised $828 for Buddies Inc.


Columbus Buddy Walk - Addie and Friends

Addie enjoys fundraising because she knows that her efforts are making a difference to individuals with Down syndrome and their families. She appreciates knowing that her fundraisers are helping to make programs like iCanBike, which teaches kids with disabilities how to ride a bike, available in Central Ohio. She really loves riding her bike, and shared that she thinks riding a bike is something all kids should get to do. Addie was really proud to know that she was helping to make that program possible.


When describing the Columbus Buddy Walk to her friends, Addie calls it a “really fun event”, and she loves having “so much fun” with her friends every year at the walk. She wants her team members to know that they “can make a difference in the world”. We think she is certainly a fine example of the difference kids can make! To learn more about the Columbus Buddy Walk, please visit their Stride fundraising site.

Columbus Buddy Walk - Buddies Inc



This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: support@ds-connex.org.