Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
On Saturday, October 12th, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. will celebrate its 12th Annual Wiregrass Area Buddy Walk® in Dothan, Alabama. Hoping to raise $60,000 this year, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. is counting on the support from their great Buddy Walk® teams to help them reach their fundraising goal. Double D is one of those teams; they will celebrate their 10th year at the event in October. We were so pleased to have an opportunity to connect with Brandi and learn more about her team.
Double D, which stands for Deese and Devine, honors Brandi Deese and Mike Devine. These best friends bowl together in the Unified Bowling League in Dothan. Brandi shared that she and Mike once had a Galaxy Bowling fundraiser for their team, and she has also placed containers in restaurants to collect change. Brandi also owns a business called Scribbling B; she colors and frames pictures and sells them at the Buddy Walk®, donating the proceeds to the event. This year, she even had a 2020 calendar made of her artwork and $1.00 from each calendar sold goes to her team. She sold out of her first order of 100 calendars within 24 hours of receiving them!
Brandi hopes that her friends and family members on Team Double D will learn more about Down syndrome and focus on her abilities. Her wish is that everyone would include individuals with Down syndrome in their activities so they can get to know them better. Brandi plans to decorate her tent at the walk with checkered flags and “have our usual boiled peanuts for our team.” Brandi explained, “We have a good time under our tent fellowshipping with each other but the fun part is seeing all the buddies and their family members. It is like a family reunion each year.”
This year, the event will honor Hometown Heroes. Brandi enjoyed watching Top Chef this year; the winner, Kelsey B Clark, is from Dothan and owns KBC Restaurant. Brandi was selected to represent the USA at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi last year. She won a silver medal and a seventh-place ribbon in the competitions and was selected as one of three athletes to represent the USA in the closing ceremonies. She was also awarded a key to the city from the Mayor of Dothan upon her return home. Brandi and Kelsey will be featured as Hometown Heroes at the Wiregrass Area Buddy Walk® this year, and they will be featured in advertisements by their city’s Visitors Bureau soon.
The money raised at the Wiregrass Area Buddy Walk® funds several wonderful opportunities for the Down syndrome community in Dothan. Brandi shared that they have “an awesome F.R.I.E.N.D.S. support group that has monthly activities for its members, as well as grants, educational support, and new parent packages. We are so fortunate that Buddy Walk® funds go to our group and we are very fortunate that we have an awesome coordinator, Alicia Sims, who organizes the event each year. She loves all the buddies and works very hard on this yearly event.”
We are very excited to watch the progress of Team Double D this year, and we’ll be cheering on all of the great Wiregrass Area Buddy Walk® teams as they work to reach their goals! You can show your support by visiting their Stride fundraising site.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.