Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: FEDS Thumbs Up For Down Syndrome: Made in Michigan Walk
Walk Date: Saturday, September 24, 2016
Who: Families Exploring Down Syndrome
Location: Macomb ISD Building; Clinton, MI
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/fedsmithumbsup
Organization Website: http://www.familiesexploringdownsyndrome.org
Each year, Families Exploring Down Syndrome (FEDS) selects a new theme for their annual Down syndrome fundraising walk. This year the theme is “Made in Michigan.” We sat down with co-chairs Donovan Meyers and Kadi Coe to talk more about the event and how they became involved with the organization.
Donovan was introduced to FEDS after the organization needed help with a new website. “I started attending the board meetings and just recently became a full board member.” Donovan and his wife have a four-year-old daughter, Ever, who has Down syndrome. Kadi also became involved because of her daughter. “Ayla is 8 years old. I joined the group when I was pregnant and found out Ayla had Down syndrome. They were very supportive and got me through a lot of hard times.”
This will be the 10th year for the walk. The “thumbs up” slogan was chosen as a way to represent the signature hand shape of the state of Michigan. The phrase also correlates with the 2016 walk theme “Made in Michigan.” “We’re going to have a merchandise table at the walk with items people in the community have made, along with FEDS swag,” shared Donovan. “There will also be a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction filled with products made in Michigan.”
Kadi, Donovan, and the FEDS board are working hard to make sure this year will be the best walk yet! In addition to being at a new location, there will be activities for kids and adults of all ages. Participants can look forward to: a petting zoo (pony rides), bounce houses, cotton candy, popcorn, games, a Choo Choo Train, face painting, DJ, clowns, magicians, balloon animals and more! There will also be a food tent where people can get a meal. “The D.A.D.S. group is donating the food and they’ll be the ones cooking and serving meals to walk participants,” said Donovan.
The walk has a unique feel to it. Kadi described, “I just think it’s the comradery of all of the families getting together. We do different functions, but it’s nice to have one large event where we can have one group altogether and celebrate that all in one. It’s an amazing thing!” Donovan added, “Everybody goes to this event.” It’s more than a reunion, though. The walk is very community driven. “It’s put on by the FEDS group, which has come together to volunteer their time and put this event together,” said Donovan. “The people who are running it are familiar. We’re all doing it together.”
FEDS has a goal of raising $40,000 through the Thumbs Up for Down Syndrome: Made in Michigan Walk. The donations raised from the walk are vital to the programming opportunities FEDS offers families in the community throughout the year, including: the Parent to Parent program (new parents receive basket with materials and gifts), Summer Scholarships (every child that applies for a scholarship can use the money for therapy, swim lessons, etc.), social gatherings (like the Christmas party, Summer Picnic, World Down Syndrome Day celebration, etc.), and New Parent Brunches (parent’s w/ kids under three years meet with more seasoned parents). The walk also helps fund activities for older adults like: bocce ball, sporting events, dances and more.
To show your support for FEDS and the Thumbs Up For Down Syndrome: Made in Michigan Walk, please visit their fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/fedsmithumbsup. To learn more about FEDS, please visit http://www.familiesexploringdownsyndrome.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.