Author: Rose Phillips, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: Greenville Buddy Walk®
Walk Date: Sunday, October 4, 2015
Who: Down Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville (DSFA of Greenville)
Location: Conestee Park; Greenville, SC
Walk Registration Website: www.ds-stride.org/greenvillebuddywalk
Organization Website: dsfagreenvilleorg.presencehost.net
Everyone has a great story about how they discovered their local Buddy Walk®, and Rachael Swolgaard, board member at the Down Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville and captain of Team Emalyn, is certainly no exception. This October, the Swolgaard family – with five little ones under the age of 7—will don their Buddy Walk® gear for a day of music, bounce houses, games, cotton candy, and fun.
Rachael and her husband looked forward to being a part of the Down syndrome community since she tested positive for a chromosomal abnormality during her pregnancy with her son. “We learned about Down syndrome and fell in love with these people,” she says. But when her son was born without Down syndrome, they didn’t just forget about the Down syndrome community. Years later, they found out about Reece’s Rainbow, a group that advocates for children with special needs in other countries to be adopted. The family went to Ukraine and adopted two girls – first a 5 year old with Cerebral Palsy and then 2 year old Emalyn, who has Down syndrome. “Then I found out I was pregnant, so we went from two kids to five kids in about a year!” Rachael says.
Everyone in the Swolgaard family is looking forward to the Buddy Walk® this year. “My kids are still talking about it. They think we get all these awesome perks because Emalyn has Down syndrome,” Rachael says. This year Buddy Walk® participants will enjoy a string band, tailgating, a magician, and carnival-style entertainment at Conestee Park. “I think that the biggest impact for the kids is they get to see other kids with Down syndrome and understand a little more because to them, Emalyn is just Emalyn,” she says. “It’s cool to see friends and family rally behind her, and to see how many people care about her.”
Bridget Walter, Down Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville president and captain of Team Addi-ventures, adds of the walk, “It is such a great way to celebrate individuals with Down syndrome in our community.” Her favorite Buddy Walk® moment was in 2013, when her daughter Addi had just started to walk. “She took several steps at the end to get her medal,” she says. “It was such a huge milestone that she could take those steps and we were able to celebrate that surrounded by friends and family. To have that support was really amazing.”
Funds raised at the Buddy Walk® will provide support for the organization’s programming, education seminars, support group meetings, and events for the families. DSFA of Greenville puts on a Christmas party each year, and provides new parents with a handmade bag of resources and gifts for new parents to celebrate their baby with Down syndrome. “As we raise more funds, it opens the door to expand our outreach and programming,” Bridget says. “We want new community audiences involved so they can understand what the Buddy Walk® is all about – to know there is a community out there that supports you, surrounding you with love and celebration for a journey you never expected to be on.”
To be a part of the 2015 Greenville Buddy Walk®, you can register at http://www.ds-stride.org/greenvillebuddywalk. To learn more about the Down Syndrome Family Alliance of Greenville, you can visit them at dsfagreenvilleorg.presencehost.net.
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.