Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Buddy Walk Date: Saturday, September 26, 2015
Who: Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress
Location: Hammonasset Beach State Park
Buddy Walk website: http://www.ds-stride.org/cdscbuddywalk
CDSC website: https://www.ctdownsyndrome.org/
“It’s a lot of family fun!” Vice President of CDSC, Shanon McCormick says of the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress Buddy Walk®.
The event is highly anticipated across the state and participants come out in the hundreds, rain or shine, each year. Shanon shares, “There was a year when it just poured and poured rain and we weren’t sure if walkers were going to come out. It was amazing because almost 1,000 people came out despite the weather. It shows the dedication of the Down syndrome community for this event and it gives me chills.”
The Buddy Walk is held at Hammonasset Beach State Park and the location gives walkers from all across the state space to enjoy each other’s company. In addition to a light lunch and tailgate, there is entertainment for all ages including a DJ, bounce houses, an inflatable obstacle course, arcade games, face painters and more! The venue is just steps from the beach as well.
The walk, which was originally started by one family, has grown to more than 1,400 registrants and has even gained support of walkers and volunteers outside the Down syndrome community. “It gets bigger every year!” says McCormick. At the heart of the walk’s success is the social connection between families. The walk has a welcoming culture where families meet one another and create a special bond.
This year, Shanon’s goal is to focus on awareness campaigns and explore engagement with self-advocates who’d like to have a more formal role in the event. Shanon hopes that through the self-advocates, walkers who aren’t personally connected to the Down syndrome community can put a name, face and story to the important cause they are supporting. She is also planning to utilize route signage in a creative way to inspire walkers along the route.
The fundraising goal is set this year at $80,000 and team fundraising has an important role. Top teams have raised funds in the past through a classic car night, golf tournaments, auctions for handmade items like afghans, crazy sock days (at work or school), and restaurant fundraisers. One restaurant has named a burger after an individual with Down syndrome and a portion of the burger sales benefit the Buddy Walk!
Net proceeds raised from the walk each year go to support CDSC programs like a summer picnic that is free to members, educational and social events for families, and a World Down Syndrome Day event in March. The organization also offers support groups in each county and is piloting a 1-on-1 training program to teach parents how to advocate during IEP meetings. In November, CDSC will also host a statewide convention for the Down syndrome community with topics ranging from career building skills, to education to therapeutic intervention and more.
“The walk is a celebration to kick off Down Syndrome Awareness Month and the rest of our program year,” comments Shanon. “It’s a really good time and it’s a fun atmosphere.”
To be a part of the 2015 CDSC Buddy Walk® on Saturday, September 26th, you can register at http://www.ds-stride.org/cdscbuddywalk. To learn more about the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress, visit https://www.ctdownsyndrome.org/.
This post is a continuation of our Down Syndrome Walk Profile series. We’ll be profiling and highlighting Down Syndrome Walks from around the country in an effort to share the stories and experiences that make Down syndrome communities so vibrant and unique. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon.