Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: 9th Annual DSSM Buddy Walk®
Walk Date: Saturday, October 15, 2016
Who: Down Syndrome Society of Mobile
Location: Bienville Square; Mobile, AL
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/dssmbuddywalk
Organization Website: http://www.dssmobile.org
The Buddy Walk® is an important event to the Down Syndrome Society of Mobile. In fact, it’s currently the only fundraiser for the organization, which means funds raised are crucial to the programs DSSM offers to the local community. In addition to being a fundraiser, the Buddy Walk® is also a celebration of those in the Mobile area with Down syndrome and an opportunity to raise awareness. We sat down with Belinda Dean and Cassandra Samaj (both on the DSSM board) to talk more about this year’s event.
“The walk is a great opportunity for the community to see our loved ones with Down syndrome. I’ve seen the walk grow tremendously in the last 3 years I’ve been a part of it. It’s a fun-filled family day – it’s a great celebration,” says Cassandra. Belinda has been involved since the first event took place nine years ago. “We were a small group in the beginning and we decided we wanted to do a walk. We arranged it at a minor league park and we walked around the parking lot.” The walk has seen exponential growth since then. It moved to a local ballpark and then from there, to the iconic Bienville Square in downtown Mobile.
No matter your age, there is something for everyone at the DSSM Buddy Walk®! Participants can look forward to bounce houses, arts and crafts, a photo booth, and character photo opps, a trailer of video games for the older kids, a live band (the Stereo Dogs will perform this year), and much more! Cassandra recalls, “Last year, we had an organization called Once Upon a Time come and be a part of our walk. It was a group of young women who dressed up as princesses and volunteered their time. THE KIDS WENT CRAZY! All the kids wanted their pictures with them. Seeing all of the smiles on their faces – it’s the best!”
Even more than a celebration, the event is an opportunity to invite to community to learn more about Down syndrome. Belinda shares, “We’re showing off our kids – highlighting our children and promoting awareness at the walk.” Adds Cassandra, “So many people have the misconception people with Down syndrome can’t survive in this world and that is not the case. They make take the scenic route, but they will get there. They can do what anyone else can do. Our kids are very special.” The walk is the perfect opportunity to invite people you know to attend. “I really promote the family environment to my co-workers and how much fun the kids have. It’s a short enough walk that anyone can do it. Come out and see what it’s all about. You come one year, you’ll come back!”
This year, DSSM has a goal of raising $65,000 through the Buddy Walk® to help fund their programming. DSSM provides support groups divided by ages: babies, school-age, and teenage-young adults, which all have events throughout the year. They also have a huge Christmas party in December and everybody gets a gift (siblings up to age 12) as well as a buffet lunch. In the summer, they hold a pool party & lunch for families. In addition to support groups and socials, DSSM has purchased pediatric equipment and resources to lend to its families including treadmills, tricycles, and Signing Time DVDs. DSSM will also sponsor families to go to the NDSC Convention annually. “We’re one big organization,” say Belinda and Cassandra. “If you think there is something that could help our age groups let us know – we will do what we can to enrich the lives of our kids.”
To show your support for DSSM and the DSSM Buddy Walk, please visit their fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/dssmbuddywalk. To learn more about the DSSM, please visit http://www.dssmobile.org.
This post is a continuation of our Down Syndrome Walk Profile series. We’ll be profiling and highlighting Down Syndrome Walks from around the country in an effort to share the stories and experiences that make Down syndrome communities so vibrant and unique. Check back for future posts in this series coming soon.