Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
On Sunday, 9/21, the ds-connex team joined my family and I as we celebrated our 11th Columbus Buddy Walk®. After fundraising for six months, we were ready to enjoy the day. We arrived quite early (before sunrise!) to begin setting up our tailgate, and then anxiously waited for the rest of Team Alex to arrive.
Team Alex has a strong presence at the Buddy Walk®, with over 100 members registered. Our walk attracted 5,000 people and raised $300,000 ($10,498.84 contributed by Team Alex!); what a great opportunity to raise awareness about the Down syndrome community!
After we walked and had lunch, we were able to take advantage of all the great activities that were set up around the plaza at Crew Stadium. An awesome DJ was providing dance music (and dance, we did!), and there were stations set up for face painting, hair braiding, balloons, games, and visits with local fire and police officers. There were food trucks, raffles, and games. It was such a festive atmosphere!
One of my favorite moments from this year’s walk, though, didn’t directly affect my team or family. Each year, our group of self advocates performs a dance number; this is wonderful enough on its own, and a definite crowd pleaser, but this year there was an awesome new twist. The dance, to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, was split into three segments, and in between each segment the DSACO Executive Director read the names of the new babies born with Down syndrome in our community since last year’s walk. In all, 42 names were read, and after each baby had been recognized, those families were invited up on stage and the self advocates gave each of them a flower, to welcome them into the Down syndrome family. We are truly a family, all connected by the presence of that extra chromosome, and it was lovely to see it recognized by this incredibly moving, sweet gesture.
Our 11th appearance Buddy Walk® was just as memorable as our first, and Team Alex will see you out at the Columbus Buddy Walk® again next year!