The Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada (DSNNN), with the support of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), held its fifth annual Buddy Walk to raise money for education and research, promote inclusion for people with Down syndrome and celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which begins in October.
DSNNN raised more than $15,000 in preregistration donations and Colette McKenzie, president of the organization, estimated they would raise at least $16,000 after receiving donations during the 1-mile walk. Seven percent of the money the DSNNN raises during the event goes to the NDSS.
To make donations easier, participants were able to set up donation pages through www.firstgiving.com. The website made it easier for Team Elliott to raise money, said Theresa Grant, who is the mother of 13-year-old Elliott and a DSNNN board member.
“People are still giving even with this economy,” Grant said.
DSNNN raised about $16,000 in 2009 and hoped to raise even more this year, McKenzie said.
Awards were given to teams that raised the most money. The teams were grouped by the age of the child the team was named for. The winners were: Team Kenley for infants to 3 year olds, Team Jordan for 4 to 8 year olds, Team Ben for 9 to 14 year olds and Team Kailin for 15 years and older. Advanced Pediatric Therapies was the biggest corporate donor. Team Jaden Rose won for best theme and best banner went to Team Rosa.
When the walk started five years ago, the organization hoped for 50 participants but 200 people showed up, McKenzie said. The event had to move to the marina because it grew too big for its previous location at Idlewild Park. On Saturday, 710 people were preregistered for the walk and McKenzie expected at least 800 people to show up.
“Every year we run out of shirts,” McKenzie said.
Before the walk started, teams assembled on the grass and people tried to maneuver around stroller traffic jams and unfurled banners. Most teams wore white Buddy Walk T-shirts but some wore their own matching T-shirts or dressed up to fit their team’s theme.
Team Hudson was one of several teams wearing capes.
“We even dressed up a dog,” said Shannon Peterson, Hudson’s mother.
The red-caped dog sat near the banner that hung from the back of 16-month-old Hudson’s stroller. The banner displayed family photos and the team’s theme and reason for the capes: “Chromosomally Enhanced.”
Peterson, who is the newest board member of DSNNN and a member of the parent outreach committee, said this was the team’s second Buddy Walk. She said last year’s banner is hanging in Hudson’s room but this year’s banner is too big. This one will hang in the garage, she said.
Team Hudson’s theme for last year was “Down Syndrome Rocks.” The team dressed up as rock stars. Even Peterson’s 80-year-old grandmother joined in by sporting pink, spiked hair.
After the teams passed through the blue and yellow balloon-arch starting line, the trail of walkers stretched farther than the buoyed swim section of the cove at the north side to the kayak launch ramp at the west side of the marina. Walkers strolled to the businesses on the east side of the marina and returned to the starting point to complete a 1-mile walk.
Down syndrome occurs when a person has three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the usual two. It is the most common chromosomal condition, about 400,000 people are living with it in the United States.
The NDSS started the Buddy Walk program in 1995. According to the NDSS website, more than 280 walks are expected to be held globally this year.