It's Buddy Walk Season, and We're Celebrating
October: known for ghosts and ghouls, pink ribbons and puzzle pieces. More often than not, when people think about October, Halloween, Breast Cancer Awareness and Autism Awareness (in Canada) come to mind. People don’t often realize that October is also Down syndrome awareness month. Before having my daughter, Charlie, I had no idea there was even a whole month dedicated to recognizing Down syndrome. How can I expect those who don’t live within the Down syndrome community to know this when I didn’t? Simple - by Advocating.
Every year, thousands of parents share daily facts about Down syndrome, Buddy Walk reminders and event information and if we’re really lucky, they share pictures of their kids. Why do we do this? Because reaching just one more person who becomes aware and is supportive in including our kids makes all the difference.
The Buddy Walk was formed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 in order to help promote awareness around the world for those with Down syndrome. In 1999, Times Square began the Buddy Walk video in which hundreds of individuals with Ds are selected to have their pictures shown on the big screen.
When the Buddy Walk originally began, only 17 events took place around the United States. Today, there are thousands.
What do these Buddy Walks do and why are they so important?
They raise funds for local communities in order to help families living with Down syndrome. This includes everything from paying half of out of pocket therapy costs (the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville, Florida), to paying for classes or social events and even summer camps (DSA of Delaware). More often than not, these Buddy Walks are the local association’s largest annual fundraising event and it’s where the majority of their funds come from.
They give us a chance to highlight why Down syndrome awareness is so important. I know we do this all year, every year, with many of us consistently advocating for inclusion and law changes, but Buddy Walks are a chance to show people that we will always have a reason to celebrate our loved ones.
Funds raised from these Buddy Walks also go to support national initiatives for individuals with Down syndrome. The National Down Syndrome Society uses a portion of the proceeds raised from Buddy Walks to help advocate for law and policy changes (NDSS National Policy Center). Examples of this are the Congressional Task Force on Down Syndrome and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.
It’s a chance for our communities to come together, meet new people and include our friends and families in promoting awareness in one large group setting. It also gives us a chance to reach new people. My local Buddy Walk every year is held at a beach where hundreds of people walk by and can see/attend the event. People always ask what’s going on and what we are celebrating. It gives us the opportunity to not only advocate for our loved ones but to teach others as well.
Want to support National Down syndrome Awareness month and/or a Buddy Walk but don’t know how?
Donate to the National Down Syndrome Society. Every donation received is used to help advocate for policy changes.
Find out if you have a local Down syndrome Association and ask them how you can donate or help out. Most cities have an association and if they don’t, the community attends an association close by. Jacksonville, Florida’s Association includes families from nearby, smaller cities.
Ask your employer to show their support by wearing blue and yellow or mismatching socks.
Have dollar dress down Fridays at school/work and donate the money raised to your local organization or any national organization like Save Down Syndrome, NDSS, National Down Syndrome Congress, or Gigi’s Playhouse.
Advocate by sharing facts and disputing myths about Down syndrome on your social media account(s).
Buy Down syndrome apparel and wear it to show awareness. Many small shop owners who carry Down syndrome apparel are individuals living with Down syndrome; a parent, family member, or sometimes themselves (ex. Megology).
October has always been my favorite month of the year simply because Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It’s now my favorite month of the year for an entirely new reason; Down Syndrome Awareness Month.