Connexions Blog

"Building stronger communities by sharing inspiration, advice, and best practices that work".

It’s Time for the 4th Annual #DsTeachers Contest!

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

Parenting is a rewarding, yet complicated (and even exasperating!) gig. It truly does take a village to raise our children, and parents in the Down syndrome community may need an even stronger tribe. Many times, teachers, mentors, coaches, and other educators are proud members of our villages and play key roles in the lives of our children. To recognize these amazing relationships, ds-connex is proud to announce the fourth annual #DsTeachers contest! May 7 – May 11, 2018, is Teacher Appreciation Week and ds-connex will celebrate great #DsTeachers with a simple Facebook campaign intended to celebrate those who make such a difference in the lives of kids with Down syndrome.

The nominators with the top three posts (the photos with the most likes) on our campaign’s Facebook album will receive a $125 (first prize), $75 (second) or $50 (third) donation from ds-connex to their Down syndrome walk team along with a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card for their child's educator.


    How to Nominate a Teacher

Starting Monday, April 16, 2018 you can nominate the terrific #DsTeachers in your child’s life by submitting a photo and a brief story to Nominations may be submitted April 16th-29th. All entries must be received by the end of the day on 4/29 in order to be included in the contest. We will post all nominations to an album on the ds-connex Facebook page on the afternoon of Monday, April 30th, when voting will begin. We will tally the likes each nomination receives on their respective photo in the album. The voting will close at 12pm EST on Monday, May 7, 2018. The winners will be announced later that day via the ds-connex Facebook page.

All nominators, #DsTeachers, and schools/orgranizations are encouraged to promote the contest and ask friends and family members on Facebook to like and share their nomination post. We also encourage participants to like the ds-connex Facebook page so they can stay informed of any upcoming contest opportunities.

    And the Winner Is…

The nominators with the top three posts (most likes on their album photo) will receive a $125 (first prize), $75 (second) or $50 (third) donation from ds-connex to their Down syndrome walk team along with a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card for their child's educator.

The three educators will be announced on ds-connex social media on the afternoon of Monday, May 7th. We will highlight selected nominations, chosen at random, throughout Teacher Appreciation Week.

By nominating someone for the #DsTeachers program, you are giving ds-connex permission to share your submission via our Connexions blog and across multiple social platforms in order to raise awareness and appreciation of teachers, coaches, and mentors in the Down syndrome community. Please note that this contest is sponsored by ds-connex.

If you participated in last year’s contest, we welcome you to participate again this year!

We look forward to seeing your #DsTeachers entries soon and hearing some great stories about the special teachers and educators in your child’s life!

Walk Team Spotlight - Buddies Inc. & National Siblings Day

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

April 10, 2018, is National Siblings Day. Because it falls on a #TeamTuesday, we thought this was a perfect opportunity to feature a young team captain who made her debut last year at the Columbus Buddy Walk, raising over $3000 for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio. Addie Kearns is 11 years old, and she is currently in sixth grade. Addie’s older brother, Alex, has Down syndrome, and Addie has previously acted as co-captain for her brother’s team. Determined to do more for her community, she founded Buddies Inc in 2017 to raise money in honor of all individuals with Down syndrome. Her heart for advocacy and fundraising has impressed many, even earning her recognition as a Rising Star in her community. In addition to her fundraising and advocacy, Addie is a member of her dance studio’s company program, a diversity steward for her school, and a 4.0 student. She also enjoys drawing and crafting, playing outside, and spending time with her family. When she grows up, Addie dreams of being a physical therapist dance instructor (a role she intends to create herself if it doesn’t already exist), or a professional advocate.

Alex and Addie Sibling Love

Addie and Alex share a close bond. “Even though we fight sometimes – like most siblings do – he is the first to console me when I’m sad or if I have gotten hurt,” Addie explained. “He makes me laugh even when I don’t want to. Someone might look at Alex and think he’s different, even though everybody is. I look at Alex and he’s my brother, my human being brother, who is just like everyone else.”

For her second year as team captain for the Columbus Buddy Walk, Addie has set her fundraising goal at $5000. Just three weeks into walk season, she has already raised 20% of her goal! She is just getting started, though. So far this year, she has coordinated a spirit day at her school (raising over $700 in one day!), and she and her mom (who is also a team captain for the Columbus Buddy Walk; their family has two teams in one house!) had a fundraising challenge on World Down Syndrome Day. She also plans to host an event, Shop Along with Buddies Inc, where she will invite direct sales consultants to set up displays (in exchange for a donation to her team) for invited guests to shop. In addition, Addie is working on a presentation to share with potential team sponsors in her community.

Although Addie’s fundraising journey began when she was in second grade, it was her fifth grade teachers last year who supported and encouraged her to establish her own Buddy Walk® team. In addition to her teachers, Addie finds inspiration in her mom, DSACO President and CEO Kari Jones, and Ellen DeGeneres. “They do so much for me and my community. They inspire me every day and they fight for what’s right in my community and for people everywhere.”

Addie and Alex friends

We think Addie is pretty amazing, and we can’t wait to see what she accomplishes – not only in her fundraising this year, but life in general! To learn more about Buddies Inc, you can visit Addie’s fundraising page here.

This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to:

Ds-Connex Champions: A Yearlong Celebration of Individuals with Down Syndrome

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

World Down Syndrome Day is a day for spreading awareness, and has become an important holiday within the global Down syndrome community. Whether you are rocking your socks, sharing acts of kindness, or hosting a fundraiser for your walk team, you are part of a movement which serves to illustrate that our loved ones with Down syndrome are equal and capable members of our communities.

We believe this movement should continue past 3/21, and that individuals with Down syndrome should be celebrated all year long. On World Down Syndrome Day 2018, we will launch the ds-connex Champions campaign to celebrate the milestones, major accomplishments, and everyday achievements of our loved ones with Down syndrome. We know just how much hard work is put into those first words, riding a bike, acing a test, earning a first paycheck, and every single thing in between…and we’re ready to celebrate it all!

ds-connex champions

We invite parents and self-advocates to send us photos and a brief description of the accomplishment you would like to see featured; please email your submissions to We will feature individuals on our social media channels so the entire community can join us in recognizing these achievements, and our Champions will be entered into a random monthly drawing for a gift card.

We can’t wait to begin this extended celebration!

Please note: by submitting content for the ds-connex Champions campaign, you are granting ds-connex permission to edit your submission for grammar and/or length, and use the submitted photo and story in ds-connex social media posts and website. We will only use the first name of the featured individual in our promotions. We will begin accepting submissions now, and the posts will be shared beginning March 21, 2018. Gift card winners will be selected on the 21st of each month from the pool of all submissions received at the time of the drawing, and winners will be notified via email (should the 21st fall on a weekend, the winner will be announced on the following Monday).

(Please note: When submitting an entry from a mobile device, please be advised that the “connex” segment of our email address may be autocorrected, preventing your entry from reaching us. If you do not receive a confirmation of your entry, please try sending it again.)

Walk Team Spotlight - Carl’s Crew of the Fun Coast Buddy Walk®

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Saturday, March 24th, the Fun Coast Down Syndrome Association will celebrate its 13th Annual Buddy Walk® at Central Park in Palm Coast, FL. Leading the group of teams helping the FCDSA work toward their $40,000 fundraising goal is Carl’s Crew, led by team captains Angela Bowdre and Samantha Snowden. We had the pleasure of learning more about Carl and Fun Coast’s event from Angela and Samantha as they prepare for their celebration in March.

Carl is an adorable one year old who loves to play with blocks and any of his toys that light up and make noise. He is close to sitting up on his own! His mom, Angela, used to work with Samantha, who is the Vice President of the Fun Coast Down Syndrome Association. Carl was born very early (at 25 weeks), and when he was about 10 weeks old, Angela reached out to Samantha for support because she remembered that Samantha is connected to the FCDSA. “Once Carl is stable and we bring him home, we need to talk,” Angela told Samantha. When they finally connected again, Samantha provided Angela with the contact information for Paula Wilburn, Executive Director of the FCDSA. Samantha shared that Paula is such a great advocate for the Fun Coast families, and she wanted Angela to have access to that support in their community. She also asked Angela to co-captain a Buddy Walk® team with her. “Carl is already so loved in the community,” she explained.

Carls Crew of the Fun Coast Buddy Walk

Samantha is not directly related to anyone with Down syndrome, but four years ago, she met Paula when her son broke his arm and Paula was the nurse at the orthopedic doctor’s office. Paula invited Samantha to the Buddy Walk®, and she attended as a spectator. Samantha met Paula’s son, Keaton, who has Down syndrome, at that Buddy Walk®, and she was hooked. “I was theirs forever,” she said. “Paula got me through Keaton.” Since then, Samantha has teamed up with a family who has a loved one with Down syndrome to assist them in fundraising for the Buddy Walk®. This year, she is happy to work with Carl’s Crew, and they are currently a top fundraising team as well as the largest team!

Each of the Carl’s Crew team captains uses Facebook to spread the word about their fundraising and to recruit team members. Samantha explained that she posts often, because “People get busy and need reminders.” She advises team captains to “pick a day every week to post about your team, and keep doing it!” Angela agrees, saying that she uses Facebook networking as her biggest fundraising tactic. Samantha also hosts a paint night fundraiser, and the owner of the paint studio gives 65% of the proceeds back to FCDSA. Last year, Samantha’s team raised $495; it’s their biggest fundraiser every year.

Fun Coast Buddy Walk Keaton and Samantha

Samantha describes the FCDSA Buddy Walk® as a “full day of fun.” She explained that all the self-advocates are involved, and once you come to the event, you get to know all of the self-advocates. The Carl’s Crew team members will experience all of this, and get team t-shirts courtesy of a local company which has offered to donate the shirts for the entire team. “There is no better feeling than giving back, especially when it comes to Down syndrome. There is nothing better than spending the day with self-advocates. If you want to give back and feel good, join a local Buddy Walk® event,” Samantha said.


Carls Crew of the Fun Coast Buddy Walk

In addition to feeling good about giving back to the community, Samantha hopes that their team members will leave the Buddy Walk® feeling like they’ve received an education about Down syndrome, and feel more comfortable around people with Down syndrome. “People don’t understand,” she shared. “Down syndrome is now on the forefront, because of the new Gerber Baby.” Samantha is hoping that because a lot of people now have a connection to the Down syndrome community through Angela and Carl, they will understand and be more accepting.

For more information about the 13th Annual Fun Coast Buddy Walk®, to register for the walk, or to make a donation, please visit their Stride fundraising page here.

This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: