The Abilene Buddy Walk

Photo courtesy of Philip Vicari

Photo courtesy of Philip Vicari

Elise Grimland

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The Abilene Upside Down Club hosted its 7th Annual Buddy Walk on September 22 from 9 am to 10 pm. This free event was held at 4009 Beltway South. It is held every year to promote awareness for Down syndrome and is a fun activity for anyone wishing to participate.Although it was a rainy weekend, the event continued and was a fun experience for everyone involved. The events at the Buddy Walk included: inflatables, pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting, knockerball, music to dance to, free snacks, and vendor booths. There is a bit of walking involved: a loop around the back parking lot of the church; however, the focus of the event are the booths and activities that were planned for the day. There was also a karate demo and a cheer performance by a special needs group in the area. And the most important of  all, a recognition of the individuals with Down syndrome on a stage where they were presented with a medal.

 

Mrs. Baker teaches at the high school and is one of the three moms who planned and organized the event. Mrs. Baker’s son, Bryson, was born with Down syndrome and is the reason she feels the need to reach out to the community. When Bryson was born she says she went through what she calls “a roller coaster of emotions” from being happy, scared, angry, guilty, and then finally blessed. “I felt God lay it on my heart to reach out to other people who had a child or loved one with DS (Down syndrome),” she says.  After having Bryson she reached out to other families who helped her organize the Abilene Upside Down Club (a Down syndrome support group) and consequently the Buddy Walk in Abilene.

 

In 1995, the National Down Syndrome Society established The Buddy Walk program to celebrate Down syndrome awareness. Since then, local groups can put on buddy walks to support the individuals with Down syndrome within their communities. When Baker heard about the walk she says it “just felt like the next step on our DS journey.” They didn’t know how the citizens of Abilene would react, but it was a success (around 200-300 people came), and it just kept getting “bigger and bigger every year”.

 

Baker says that she wants people to know that “people with Down syndrome lead very productive, happy, successful lives” and it “does not limit what they can achieve.” If anyone would like to support, they can attend next year’s Buddy Walk and enjoy the activities or donate to the organization. You can also visit their website at www.upsidedownclub.com.