Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Families gather each year at the St. Paul Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk to celebrate their loved ones with Down syndrome. For Tiffany and Brandon Yerxa, co-team captains of Walkin’ With Winston, the walk was a turning point for them after their son Winston was born. A friend, who heard about Winston’s diagnosis, reached out to the Yerxa’s the night before the event and encouraged them to attend. It was one of the best decisions Brandon and Tiffany had made.
While at the walk, they met families walking the same journey as them, and were introduced to a variety of resources to help them give Winston every opportunity. “We learned about the early intervention Winston is receiving through people we met at the walk; it has made a tremendous impact on his life.” Winston, 7, is now in the first grade and is described by his parents as stubborn yet loving, with a good sense of humor. He has two younger sisters, Graciella and Elliana, who he enjoys spending time with. Winston also loves to play with superheroes, or as he calls them “bad guys!” He is quite fond of animals too. Tiffany shared with us, “He begs to go to the zoo almost every day.”
Now in their 7th year for the walk, Brandon and Tiffany are veteran team captains. Last year, they were the top fundraising team for the St. Paul Step Up For Down Syndrome Walk, raising over $10,000 for the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota. The team captain duo attributes their fundraising success to social media networking and employer matching gift programs.
On the social media side, Tiffany begins actively promoting the walk to her Facebook network at least one month prior to the walk day. Tiffany offered this advice to team captains looking to promote their walk team on social media. 1) Set a fundraising goal on your team page. 2) Update your Facebook profile and cover photo to walk pictures as well as your Stride team page with a photo and bio (the storytelling is a compelling factor in moving people to give) 3) At least once a week, post an update on your team fundraising/recruitment to remind your social network to support your efforts. Tiffany also stressed the importance of including an image with your walk posts. “I rarely publish a post without a picture of Winston. I try to keep the post short, sweet and impactful. It keeps the walk and fundraiser top of mind.”
Additionally, Team Walkin’ With Winston saw great results last year from corporate match programs. In all, they raised $2,000 just through match donations. Wow! Tiffany and Brandon both work for companies who utilize corporate match, and they encouraged their co-workers who supported their team to participate in the program to double their donations.
Tiffany shared with us one of the great motivators for their team fundraising last year was an incentive DSAM offered to team captains. The team who raised the most money would have their loved one with Down syndrome be the face of the next DSAM billboard. Having an incentive like this really struck home for Tiffany because of the message her son Winston could send to the community and it added extra value and motivation for their team to fundraise.
For both Tiffany and Brandon, one of the best parts of team fundraising is the celebration on the day of the walk. Each year, they put up a team tent with balloons, donuts, coffee and snacks to create a welcoming environment for their team members. “It’s a great learning experience for our peers’ children and an opportunity for them to learn about people who are different than them.” Tiffany and Brandon especially like seeing Winston interact with friends/relatives he doesn’t see as often and enjoy seeing them proactively come into his world. This interaction is priceless to Tiffany and Brandon and what they look forward to most at the walk each year.
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.