The Buddy Walk was started in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The DSNNN was formed in 2005 by Diana Harvey, and that same year an annual Buddy Walk was started in Reno.
“The purpose of this event is to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome,” Harvey said Saturday. “It’s also our largest fundraiser of the year.”
About 800 people turned out for Saturday’s event, a large increase from the 200 walkers who participated in the first Buddy Walk in 2005.
“I think we had about 800 last year, but this year we have already raised more money,” said Brittani Keefe, DSNNN spokesperson. “Lithia (Auto Stores of Reno) is our title sponsor and they gave us a large amount of money.”
Keefe said 7 percent of the funds raised during the northern Nevada Buddy Walk go to national advocacy and outreach programs and the remainder go to local programs.
According to a press release, proceeds from the walk will support the DSNNN in the following programs: family support group, lending library, family gatherings, first call, parent-to-parent training and medical outreach.
“These programs benefit northern Nevada families by promoting full inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome, and providing education, awareness and advocacy in the community,” the release states.
Twenty-four fundraising teams were formed for the walk, each in support of a community member with Down syndrome. The teams had names such as “Aden’s Fan Club,” “Molly’s Monkeys” and “Team Jaden.”
“The top fund raisers in four age categories receive prizes,” Keefe said.
In addition to the walk, participants were treated to a barbecue lunch and were able to participate in a variety of activities such as a bounce house, silent auction and team photos.
“The Buddy Walk has grown from 17 walks in 1995 to nearly 300 walks planned for 2011 worldwide,” dsnnn.org states. “In 2010, more than $11.2 million was raised nationwide to benefit local programs and services, as well as the national advocacy and public awareness initiatives of NDSS that benefit all individuals with Down syndrome.”