On Saturday, October 14th, the East Texas Down Syndrome Group will celebrate their 16th Annual Buddy Walk® of East Texas. With a goal of raising $65,000 this year, the ETDSG relies on the leadership of their team captains to assist with the fundraising efforts. We had the pleasure of chatting with Kay and Tommy Stout, captains of Team Riley, to learn more about the event.
The Stouts’ family and friends walk in honor of 10 year old Riley, who will enter the 5th grade in August. A fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Riley enjoys football and basketball, and was recently promoted from a white belt to a yellow belt in Samurai Jiu Jitsu. He also likes the Marvel superheroes, and counts tacos among his favorite foods. Riley makes his family giggle almost every day, and Kay describes him as “a joy who is fun to be around” as well as a “little ladies’ man.”
Team Riley has participated in the Buddy Walk® of East Texas since 2008. They heard about the event from the ETDSG and thought they would give it a try. Initially, Kay and Tommy enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and now as Riley is getting older, he also looks forward to the event each year. The Stouts became involved with the support group because they wanted to be part of a group that they could talk to and learn more about the “journey of raising a child with Down syndrome.” Originally, the Buddy Walk® was just a bonus, but now they enjoy the walk so they can educate the community about the “importance of acceptance of others, regardless of one’s ability.”
To invite people to join their team, the Stouts create a fundraising profile on the ETDSG’s Stride page and then use their Facebook pages to spread the word about the event. Their most successful fundraising strategy has been sharing their team information on their Facebook pages, as this has allowed them to reach friends that they might not otherwise have thought to talk to about the walk. They have even seen members of Team Riley share the information to their own family and friends, resulting in additional support. The Stouts also use word of mouth to let neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are not on Facebook know of the event. This year, Riley is the 2017 Goodwill Ambassador for the ETDSG Buddy Walk®, and the Stouts are hoping that this honor will encourage more family and friends to support their team and turn out for the event.
The Stouts hope that the members of Team Riley will have fun with them on the day of the walk, but also “realize how important their contribution is to the East Texas Down Syndrome Group and community.” The funds raised help so many locally, and allow them to provide beneficial supports to the group members. Kay also gives them examples of how the money they raise funds “scholarships to conferences that will educate parents, family outings for members to participate in fun activities, and provide financial assistance to families who may have a specific need for their child that could otherwise be a financial burden.”
To families who have not yet participated in the Buddy Walk® of East Texas, the Stouts offer this advice: “Start small and go enjoy the event. See what the trend is and meet other people at the walk. Build connections and build your team slowly year by year.”
The Stouts’ favorite memory from the walks is when the firemen pass out medals to the individuals with Down syndrome as they finish the event: “Riley’s face lights up every year as that medal is placed around his neck.” We can’t wait to see photos from this year’s event!
This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams 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.