Buddy walk helps community understand down syndrome

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    By Briana Morgan

    To increase acceptance and awareness of the Down syndrome population the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation and the Utah County Organization, Up with Downs, will hold their 10th annual Buddy Walk Saturday in Orem.

    October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and the Buddy Walk kicks off the events for the month.

    Roz Welch, a board member on the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation, said the Buddy Walks help to increase awareness about Down Syndrome.

    “I think the Buddy Walks are wonderful for getting out awareness about Down syndrome,” Welch said. “We support all of the Buddy Walks because what they do is invite the people who have Down syndrome and their buddies, and these buddies can be anyone a brother, sister, friend, or neighbor, to come on out and walk and show support for Down syndrome. In some cases, it can be somewhat of a fundraiser.”

    The Buddy Walk in Orem, coordinated by Up with Downs is using this opportunity to raise funds for their chapter. Celeste Luis, president of Up with Downs, provides additional activities besides the walk to raise money.

    “There is a one-mile walk,” Luiz said. There is also food, little booths for the kids, fun activities and entertainment by local performing group PALS. We get sponsors from local businesses, and registration monies from participants. That goes to continued education to support families in our community that are affected by Down syndrome.”

    Luis said she hopes the community will get involved and has been pleased with local businesses show of support.

    “The businesses are great,” she said. “We get several different kinds of donations and a lot of restaurants donate gift certificates that we give away. Other business give money, and donate services.”

    The walk will begin at 10:00 a.m. and participants can pre-register at 9:30 a.m. just south of Orem Community hospital.

    Donna Chantry, a teacher who works with Down syndrome children, agreed the awareness this type of event brings to the community is valuable.

    “The positive effects are it gives people an opportunity to serve,” Chantry said. “A lot of children who have Down syndrome do the walk. It shows other children that these kids can do a lot of the similar things that other children can do.”

    Luis, who has a three-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, said she was unaware of organizations that helped people with Down syndrome before she was touched by her daughter”s genetic condition.

    “I am so grateful for it, and so happy to participate in it,” Luis said. “It is just so great to make the community more aware of the abilities of people with disabilities. It is great to be a part of it.”

    In 1995, the National Down Syndrome Society started the Buddy Walk program to promote inclusion of those in the Down syndrome population. In 1995 there were 17 walks, now there are over 175 walks planned and over 50,000 people are expected to walk in these events.

    Welch said five different Buddy Walks around the state are planned. For more information on the Buddy Walks or the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation see their Web site at www.udsf.org or call Celeste Luis at (801) 772-0232.

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