Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: 15th Annual Buddy Walk® of East Texas
Walk Date: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Who: East Texas Down Syndrome Group
Location: ROC at First Baptist Church
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/easttexasbuddywalk
Organization Website: http://www.etdsg.org
The 15th Annual Buddy Walk® of East Texas promises to be another great fundraising event through historic downtown Longview. T.J. Angus, Buddy Walk® chair for the East Texas Down Syndrome Group, describes the walk as “very East Texas”, with “friendly people” and an “overall sense of fun”.
T.J. first became involved in the walk after his son, Austin, was born four years ago. Through local friends, he and his wife, Tiffany, connected with ETDSG and then were invited to participate in the walk. They are looking forward to this year’s event, as it will be the first year that Austin will walk independently. T.J. fondly recalls last year, when Austin received a medal from local fire fighters (who are also parents of children with Down syndrome), at the finish line of the walk. They also honor an individual as their Buddy Walk® Ambassador, and T.J. shared how sweet it was last year to watch the 2014 Ambassador, Ryan Bailey, pass the torch to the 2015 Ambassador, Kendall Boyles. This year, Kendall will pass the torch to 2016 Ambassador Zachary Jordan.
The Buddy Walk® of East Texas is fortunate to have great support from their community. So many people attend and set up their booths; it is a big event in the area and participants look forward to seeing their friends at the walk. There is an “overall feeling of family and friendship with everyone participating,” T.J. explained.
Over the last 14 years, the location of their walk has changed. Years ago, the walk was held at a park, but they have now moved downtown and the event is more visible. This increased visibility has resulted in more participants; a lot more people are now coming to their walk. This is great news, in terms of both raising money and awareness! T.J. explains that “with the ease of registration we have this year with Stride we want to grow donations and registrants…we would like to see more people get involved and have that reach go farther.” He also hopes to extend their outreach to their Hispanic community, so they can get more people involved.
On October 8th, you can expect to see things you would see at a carnival: face painting, balloon animals, and a DJ. There will also be a hot dog lunch, and you will have the opportunity to throw pies at four of the organization’s leaders! One of ETDSG’s board members and self-advocates, Rachel Connors, has bravely volunteered with her best friend, Jennifer Ferrell, to get hit with a pie to support the organization. In addition to all of this, the 2016 Ambassador, Zachary Jordan, will lead everyone in a dance off. It sounds like a great celebration!
ETDSG has a goal of raising $60,000 for the 2016 East Texas Buddy Walk®. Funds raised from the walk help the organization provide valuable programming and support to its service area. Scholarships for families to attend the NDSC convention, support for families to help fund medical necessities, and food for member gatherings are just a few items that funds provide to families. ETDSG is also beginning to do more outreach to allow more families to connect with the organization.
To show your support for ETDSG and the ETDSG Buddy Walk, please visit their fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/easttexasbuddywalk. To learn more about the ETDSG, please visit http://www.etdsg.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.