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More alike than different
by AnnElise Hatjakes
Oct 10, 2009 | 1571 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href= mailto:dreid@dailysparkstribune.com>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Jaclyn Mullins, 4, and her brother Jesse Mullins, 7, play at the  Sparks Marina before walking in Saturday's "Buddy Walk".
Tribune/Debra Reid - Jaclyn Mullins, 4, and her brother Jesse Mullins, 7, play at the Sparks Marina before walking in Saturday's "Buddy Walk".
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Jack Rovetti is a normal 11-year-old boy. He’s a fifth grader at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School in Reno and when he’s not at school, he plays basketball and serves as a water boy for the Reno High School women’s basketball team.

Jack, who has Down Syndrome, and many others at the Sparks Marina on Saturday represented the theme for this year’s Buddy Walk hosted by the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada. The theme: Those with Down’s Syndrome and those without are “more alike than different.”

Around 600 people participated in the walk on Saturday in hopes of raising awareness about Down Syndrome.

“Today is a day to celebrate these children,” Down Syndrome Network president Collette McKenzie said. “Children and adults with Down Syndrome are just like you and I. They want to have meaningful relationships and be a part of their communities.”

McKenzie’s 6-year-old son, Caleb, has Down Syndrome and she said her son has completely changed her life.

“Before Caleb, I had never known someone with Down Syndrome before and I didn’t know what to expect,” McKenzie said. “I realized, though, that he was just like all of the other children.”

McKenzie said the walk was an important way to raise awareness about the Down Syndrome network of Northern Nevada. The network is made up of individuals with Down syndrome, their parents, families and friends, and provides resources to those affected by the disorder.

“Our goal is to be able to show how people with Down Syndrome are an important part of the community,” Down Syndrome Network secretary and Buddy Walk chair Mary Kay Altenburg said. “I have friends with children who have Down Syndrome and for me it’s important for people in the community to know to include people with Down Syndrome in activities and everything else they do.”

This year, participants in the walk were part of teams named after the people with Down Syndrome they were supporting.

Helen and Dale Hodes were part of the 25-person team for their granddaughter, Hailey.

“In our family, we take everyone as they are,” Helen said. “I call her my angel baby because she’s so sweet.”

Shirley Hodes, Hailey’s mother, described her 1-year-old as a “happy, mellow baby.”

“She’s curious and likes to get into everything,” Shirley said.

This is the fourth year the walk has taken place and the first year it has been at the Sparks Marina, previously being held at Idlewild Park in Reno.

“Every year, the event has grown by about 100 people and we hope it will just keep getting bigger,” said Diana Rovetti, the vice president of the Down Syndrome Network and mother of Jack Rovetti.

All proceeds from the event help fund family gatherings, new family support and community outreach. For more information about the network, visit www.dsnnn.org.
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