Walk Team Spotlight – Riley’s Rockstars of the DSACF Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Saturday, October 19th, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida will celebrate its 21st Annual Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk at Lake Eola Park in Orlando, FL. Leading the group of teams helping the DSACF work toward their $200,000 fundraising goal is Riley’s Rockstars, steered by team captain Jennifer Belcher. We had the pleasure of learning more about Riley and DSACF’s event from Jenn as her family prepares for their celebration in October.

DSACF Step Up - Riley Riley is an energetic, curious toddler with a joyous personality. She loves adventures with her family, and she was named a 2019 Ambassador for Nothing Down as well as a ds-connex Champion. Her parents are tireless advocates in their community, and when they learned about the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk, they knew they had to participate. They named their team “Riley’s Rockstars” because “in our eyes, she is a rock star and we just wanted to be rock stars with her,” Jenn shared. This year will mark their 3rd appearance at the event, and it will be an exciting one because “Riley is finally able to walk across the finish line on her own!” What a moment that will be! We’ll definitely be watching for videos of that milestone on Riley’s Facebook and Instagram!

To build their team for the walk, Riley’s family simply invites participants to register via their Facebook page. They also talk with people around their town to inform them of the event, and invite their co-workers. “We usually get a pretty good-sized team!” This year, Jenn would like to raise $3,000 and they are already halfway to their goal! “For the first time, we did a Spirit Night at a local restaurant and raised a good amount! We also get donations from friends and family. We have shirts made and that money goes to the team. My cousin makes handmade soaps and this year she made a Riley’s Rockstars soap and all proceeds go to our team! We also have a motorcycle club who donates to our team every year!”

  As active as Riley’s Rockstars are with fundraising, though, their most successful tactic so far has been leveraging Facebook to garner donations. “I post in all of the local word-of-mouth Facebook pages in our area and people donate,” Jenn explained. “Riley is becoming famous in our little town!”

Columbus Buddy Walk - Ella's Hope Jenn hopes that their teammates “see how amazing individuals with Down syndrome are. Everyone on our team has always said they had such a fun time at the walk. I think meeting families and being around people who are differently-abled shows them that we really are more alike than different.”

This will be the 21st Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk for DSACF, and the Belcher family is very excited to celebrate! “This is my favorite event of the year! I love how our community comes together to make this a great day for our kids. I love meeting new families and connecting with people,” Jenn shared.

For more information about the 21st Annual DSACF Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk, to register for Riley’s team, or to make a donation, please visit their fundraising page here.

This post is part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams by 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.

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