Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: Missoula Buddy Walk®
Walk Date: Sunday, October 11, 2015
Who: Montana Down Syndrome Association
Location: Silver Park; Missoula, MT
Walk Registration Website: www.ds-stride.org/missoulabuddywalk
MTDSA Website: http://mtdsa.org
Mike and MaryAnn McGowan welcomed their son, Daniel, into the world in April of 1999. Daniel was born with Down syndrome and sadly passed away in 2001. His parents formed the Missoula Buddy Walk® in honor of Daniel’s memory and to celebrate all of the individuals in Montana with Down syndrome. The first Missoula Buddy Walk® was held in September of 2002; this will be the 13th year for the walk.
Last year, the McGowan’s passed on the Missoula Buddy Walk® torch to the Montana Down Syndrome Association, to continue the legacy the walk has had in the community and to help the walk continue to grow and impact even more families in Montana. The walk “is a celebration; a community event that involves lots of folks without disabilities coming to support people with Down syndrome in a very active and engaged way,” says board member Karen Martin.
Board members Jessica Crowley and Philip Yasenak are also heavily involved with the Missoula Buddy Walk®. Philip shares, “I used to live in Butte, Montana. The walk was the only connection my family had to anyone else that had Down syndrome.” Jessica shares, “When I first had my son Jake, who has Down syndrome, I was given a binder of information that included details on the Buddy Walk®. We’ve gone every year since he was born.”
Jessica, Karen and Philip describe the Missoula Buddy Walk® as a celebration. “I think people walk away with a greater sense with what individuals with Down syndrome are capable of doing,” says Karen. “They are all these unique individuals that have a unique gift they can contribute.” Jessica adds, “The individuals with Down syndrome come away from the walk with a feeling they are not just included or accepted, but celebrated.”
The trio has exciting plans in the works for the 2015 Missoula Buddy Walk®. This year, the walk will be held at the scenic Silver Park on Saturday, September 12th. Surrounded by mountains and beautiful wildlife, the park is picturesque for the Buddy Walk®. In addition to a great location, the event will include live music, food, Strider bikes races, a kickball game, a bubble station, face painting and a photo station. There will be members of the local high school football, softball and soccer teams present as well as cheerleaders who will teach cheers and dances to the kids. The team is also working on securing a live band; and have a great surprise in the works!
MTDSA hopes to raise $25,000 through this year’s Missoula Buddy Walk®. A portion of the funds raised will support families and individuals in the local Down syndrome community struggling with financial hardship. MTDSA has a process individuals can go through to request funds for various needs like medical supplies, speech therapy, conferences, child care, workshops, etc. The organization is also in the process of developing a mentoring program, where young adults in the community with Down syndrome are paired with an intern to learn valuable office and professional skills. Funds will also be used to support social events for the Down syndrome community including dances for kids and adults, potlucks for families, etc. MTDSA also helps fund Hadley’s Hope Baskets, which sends a welcome basket of baby toys and necessities to new parents of a child with Down syndrome.
Long-term, MTDSA is hoping the walk will help their organization reach more people in the Down syndrome community across the state of Montana. “We want to reach the areas we aren’t reaching and connect them with us, have them come to the walk and participate, and learn more about some of the other programs we have,” says Philip.
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.