Walk Team Spotlight – Ella’s Hope of the Columbus Buddy Walk®

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Sunday, September 29th, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio will host their 2019 Columbus Buddy Walk®. With a $600,000 fundraising goal, DSACO hopes to once again have the strong support of their walk team captains to help them raise that record-breaking amount. Each year, many of their team captains begin fundraising on World Down Syndrome Day, when their Stride site opens (128 teams registered on 3/21 this year!), and work hard for months to help DSACO achieve their goal.

We were pleased to have an opportunity to chat with one of those determined leaders, Beth Stanley, who is the team captain of Ella’s Hope. Ella’s Hope is preparing to celebrate their third Columbus Buddy Walk®; they started walking in 2017 after Ella was born in March of that year. “We walk for all individuals with Down syndrome,” Beth shared, “and we are honored to do our small part in helping raise awareness.” When asked how the team name was created, Beth explained “Our daughter’s name is Ella Hope. We landed on the middle name of Hope because we have so much hope for who she is going to be and for the difference she’s going to make in this world. It seemed appropriate to gather family and friends together under the team name we chose, as we all have so much hope for Ella, and will rally around her with everything we have to give to set her up for success.”

Columbus Buddy Walk - Ella's Hope

And rally, they have! Between their first two Buddy Walk® events, Ella’s Hope raised more than $20,000 and donated over $1600 to other Columbus Buddy Walk® teams, to help those team captains reach their fundraising goals. Beth attributes their fundraising success to “meeting people where they are.” She explained, “we have a lot of runners and golfers in our circles, so we had a raffle with running related items last year and a race this year, along with an annual golf outing.”

This year, to kick off their fundraising efforts and celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, Beth and six other moms (five DSACO moms and two of Beth’s friends) planned and executed the inaugural Run for 321. “It was such a wonderful community effort to have several families connected from DSACO putting it together, and we had 17 individuals with Down syndrome there,” Beth shared. Their event, which will become an annual fundraiser, raised almost $6000! The funds were split up into $500 increments and donated to the first 11 teams to create a Buddy Walk team for the first time this year. “We thought it would be a warm way to welcome new families and give them a boost toward their fundraising goals,” Beth explained.

The Ella’s Hope team fundraising goal for 2019 is $5000. “We’ve decided to scale back a bit and not try to do so much,” Beth explained. “Last year we did five fundraisers in addition to recruiting people to be on our Buddy Walk® team, and it has gotten to be a bit too much as our kids get older and into more activities. Our one big fundraiser we’ll more than likely stick with is a golf outing in the fall.”

Columbus Buddy Walk - Ella's Hope

Beth’s family recruits team members by personally inviting people, handing out postcards, sending emails to co-workers, placing signs in their yard, distributing signs for others to place in their yards, posting on social media, and “talking about it with anyone who cares to learn more about what a great event it is for the entire family.” They really do a great job recruiting team members; about 100 participants registered for Ella’s Hope in each of their first two years at the event! By participating in the event, Beth hopes that their team members are “inspired to be the change they wish to see in the world. I hope they respond to calls to action wherever life takes them; that they know that inclusion matters, diversity is beautiful and that human rights should be held to the highest regard. I hope that they have hope for every person in this world and the difference he or she can make if given the opportunity; especially those with Down syndrome.”

This year, Ella’s Hope team members can anticipate a wonderful time. “We plan to hang out, celebrate, tailgate, eat, enjoy the festivities, and of course, complete the walk! Team members can expect a warm environment full of love and acceptance and an incredibly fun, family-friendly event,” Beth shared. “It’s such a grand event to celebrate differences and the way our community as a whole shows up to celebrate the Down syndrome community is truly remarkable. It’s a beautiful event we get to watch unfold each year and it leaves us full of gratitude for all of the love, support, and encouragement we have for one another and our kids. I would really encourage you to come out to experience the walk for yourself to really take in the magic.”

Ella’s Hope certainly helps make that magic possible with their incredible fundraising and team recruitment efforts. We can’t wait to watch their team’s success blossom this year!

To learn more about the 2019 Columbus Buddy Walk®, you can visit their Stride site. This post is part of our ongoing Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome fundraising teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment, and networking tips. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon!

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