Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso Buddy Walk®
Walk Date: Saturday, October 3, 2015
Who: Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso
Location: El Paso Community College, Valle Verde Campus; El Paso, TX
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/dscepbuddywalk
Organization Website: http://www.dscep.org/
On Saturday, October 3rd, the Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso (DSCEP) will come together to celebrate their annual Buddy Walk® at the Valle Verde campus of El Paso Community College. We had the pleasure of chatting with Mark Paz, chairman of the walk, to learn more about their event which he warmly describes as “very family friendly” and a “very positive community event that promotes awareness.”
Mark’s family became involved with the walk after his daughter Alessandra was born with Down syndrome in 2012. After participating for two years, Mark was nominated as chairman to help build the walk into a more city-wide event. “This is a great day and it needs to be celebrated,” Mark explains. School districts are now getting involved, and businesses like Sam’s Club, Whataburger and Starbucks also want to participate. DSCEP has great support from the local community, which is helping the Buddy Walk® event continue to grow each year.
Those attending this year’s walk can expect an array of exciting activities. A family-friendly band will play for the kids so they can dance, and there will be a Strider bike adventure zone (and at the end of the walk, they will raffle off the Strider bikes!). There will be cheerleaders, volunteers, and bands to encourage the walkers and at the end of the walk, the individuals with Down syndrome will lead their families through the Tunnel of Champions where they will receive a medal. A local beauty queen will attend to show her support for the event. There will also be “a ton of food, drinks, and desserts,” says Mark. “It’s about the music, fun, and community.”
Mark and his family are especially looking forward to seeing the kids get their awards, as this year is the first time that Alessandra will walk, unassisted, over the finish line. When she crosses the finish line this year, Mark says it will be “a moment to reflect, ‘where were we a year ago?’ It’s those moments we know the struggle and what it means to walk across the finish line.”
The funds raised through this year’s Buddy Walk® will allow DSCEP to provide scholarships to students with disabilities (through El Paso Community College), and fund communal events (social gatherings for individuals with Down syndrome and their families, like bowling nights, a Christmas party, and an Easter egg hunt). They are also hoping to establish a reverse inclusion preschool in their community. For Mark’s family, the Buddy Walk® is about “walking next to families who understand exactly what they’re going through. And to have these brand new friendships that just flourish. They become extended family before you know it.”
To show your support for DSCEP and the 2015 Down Syndrome Coalition for El Paso Buddy Walk®, please visit their fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/dscepbuddywalk. To learn more about DSCEP, please visit http://www.dscep.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.