Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: St. Paul Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk
Walk Date: Sunday, September 27, 2015
Who: Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAM)
Location: Como Park; St. Paul, MN
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/stepupmn
Organization Website: http://dsamn.org
The St. Paul Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk is a huge family reunion where families gather to celebrate together their friends, colleagues and family members with Down syndrome.
Now in its 18th year, the 2015 walk will be held at Como Park. The walk has continued to change and grow in all the best ways over the years. “One of the great things we’re seeing at the walk more and more is families with adults who have Down syndrome coming to the event,” says Executive Director Kathleen Forney. “The self-advocates volunteer, organize the food drive for Ronald McDonald House; a sock drive benefiting a local Minneapolis social service agency and supplies for Fiona’s Hope Totes. It’s very meaningful for self-advocates & their families to have an impact on connecting with new families.”
Families traditionally arrive early to set up tents and tailgate with their teams. Kathleen describes the event as “almost like a big state fair.” There are food vendors, pony rides, bounce houses/slides, face painting and large hamster balls for kids to race each other in. Home Depot also sets up a tent where kids can make crafts to take home with them. Live bands also provide musical entertainment for participants throughout the day. When it’s time to walk, the route takes walkers in a loop around beautiful Como Lake. With over 7,000 walkers, “the beginning of the walk meets up with the end of the walk,” shares Kathleen. “All you see is a sea of Step Up shirts around the lake.”
The DSAM team strives to incorporate new elements into the walk each year. In 2014, a KSTP donated the use of its helicopter for kids to sit in and meet the news personalities. This year, DSAM is adding an appearance from the Disney princesses, a music therapy station and an inclusive performance troupe. “We want to make this event a fun and celebratory day each year,” says Kathleen.
DSAM hopes to raise $200,000 through the 2015 St. Paul Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk. Funds raised will be used to support programs like New Parent Outreach, which includes welcome gifts to new parents of a child with Down syndrome, books on the child’s first birthday and quarterly new parent breakfasts. DSAM also hosts 4-5 conferences a year: one for teachers, one for youth/adults, one for parents of an individual with Down syndrome older than 21 years of age, and one for grandparents. Additionally, funds will be used to support new literacy programs being launched by DSAM in 2015-2016.
To be a part of the 2015 St. Paul Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk, you can register at http://www.ds-stride.org/stepupmn. To learn more about the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, please visit: http://dsamn.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.