Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: Rio Grande Down Syndrome Network Buddy Walk®
Walk Date: Saturday, September 24, 2016
Who: Rio Grande Down Syndrome Network
Location: Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum; Albuquerque, NM
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/rgdsnbuddywalk
Organization Website: http://www.rgdsn.org
The RGDSN Buddy Walk® is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and abilities of people with Down syndrome,” says event chair Elizabeth Forster. “It’s a day of festivities and family-centered time together.” On a personal level, Elizabeth looks at the walk as a way for her family and friends to see her son Matthew and many others with Down syndrome of all ages/abilities gathered in one place. “It gives context and a depth to understanding Down syndrome is one aspect to who our loved ones are and NOT everything they are.”
When Elizabeth’s son was born in 2012, she and her husband did not know Matthew had Down syndrome. “We received the news after he was born. It was a bit of a shock. Personally, I threw myself into wanting to learn as much about Down syndrome as possible. I reached out to RGDSN, found out the date of the Buddy Walk® was approaching, and showed up on walk day. It was the first time outside of seeing advertisements I’d met people with Down syndrome and their personal network. It was extremely encouraging and made me realize we are not alone; this diagnosis came with a strong and supportive community. Knowing this was really encouraging in a time where we really needed it.” She has been involved in the event ever since.
Elizabeth’s favorite moment of the walk day is when participants cross the finish line and all of the young people receive a medal as a form of inclusion and celebration. “It’s a way for us to show we’re all in this together. We celebrate the inclusion of not just people with Down syndrome in the community, but also the typical community in the Down syndrome community. It’s valuable for the typical society to step out of its comfort zone and be embraced in a community they may not interact with on a daily basis. You don’t have to leave the country to learn about a different community.”
In one word, Elizabeth describes the RGDSN Buddy Walk® as: FUN! Before the walk, participants will enjoy: music (provided by Los Otros), Pre-Walk Jazzercise, a car show, and a performance by dancers from the National Institute of Flamenco Tierra Adentro of New Mexico. After the walk, there will be activities for all ages including: a Gymboree, face painting, balloon twisters, silly hat photo booth, splash painting, bubbles, football toss, mini train rides from A Ton of Fun, and more! Three hot air balloons will also be inflated and on display for participants to admire. It will surely be a day to remember!
Funds raised from the Buddy Walk® are important to RGDSN and its work in the local community. The goal for this year’s walk is $50,000. The event will help fund welcome baskets for new families, new programs throughout the year, an annual WDSD event in partnership with the city of Albuquerque, the RGDSN Annual Holiday Party (it is a large family event), and a part-time RGDSN employee. The walk has also helped RGDSN send families to the NDSC Convention each year (in the last 3 years they’ve helped over 20 families attend!).
To show your support for RGDSN and the RGDSN Buddy Walk, please visit their fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/rgdsnbuddywalk. To learn more about the RGDSN, please visit http://www.rgdsn.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.