Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: Rio Grande Valley Step Up For Down Syndrome Awareness Walk
Walk Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Who: Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association
Location: Edinburg Municipal Park; Edinburg, Texas
Walk Registration Website: www.ds-stride.org/rgvdsastepup
RGVDSA Website: www.rgvdsa.org/
“Family oriented; welcoming; a celebration filled with love and support,” is how event organizers Deborah Tomai, Nellie Salazar and Esmeralda Garcia describe the Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association (RGVDSA) Step Up For Down Syndrome Awareness Walk.
RGVDSA was originally formed by Deborah, Nellie and a group of families in the local community who desired to have more programs and opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome. In an effort to raise funds to expand support offered to families, RGVDSA held its first awareness walk in 2013. “We were hoping for at least 300 people that year and we ended up with close to 1000,” shares Nellie. “It was so inspiring to see these people of all ages gather. It was just, ‘Wow.’”
Each year, the team looks forward to seeing new families in person and the community rally together in support of individuals with Down syndrome. “We have so many cities we cover,” says Nellie. “When the walk comes around, it’s an opportunity for us to see so many people.” Adds Esmeralda, “I met a mom at this past year’s walk whose daughter has a disability. They were so excited about [the walk] and exposing her daughter to this community. Both are excited to be a part of this year’s event and to have their own team.”
This year, the walk will be held again at the scenic Edinburg Municipal Park, which is known for its trails, wildlife and ponds. The walk is sure to be fun for all ages! Entertainment will include bounce houses, face painting, arts and crafts, zumba, a mariachi band and a cotton candy stand. “Our walk has a very unified culture,” says Nellie. “When people come, it feels like one big family getting together to celebrate.”
The RGVDSA walk has helped to fill an important need in the community. Deborah explains, “At last year’s walk, there was an individual in his thirties who attended and his whole family was there to celebrate him. A lot of families in the area wanted there to be a way to publicly recognize loved ones with Down syndrome for so long and they love that this walk exists.” Adds walk coordinator Billy Valley, “Our goal is to spread awareness and establish RGVDSA in the community and surrounding cities as a beacon of hope for the people that feel like they are all alone in the world of Down syndrome.”
Funds raised from the walk will support RGVDSA programming like parent groups, an annual Christmas party, and a yearly awareness event for World Down Syndrome Day as well as other activities held throughout the year for different age groups. RGVDSA also plans to expand their programming this year. “One of our priorities is firmly establishing our medical outreach program, which connects OB/GYN doctors, nurses and social workers to current information and support for families of a newborn with Down syndrome.” RGVDSA is also planning to grow the “Parents First Call” where parents of children with Down syndrome are ready and equipped to provide info and support to newly diagnosed parents.
To be a part of the 2015 Rio Grande Valley Step Up For Down Syndrome Awareness Walk you can register at www.ds-stride.org/rgvdsastepup. To learn more about the Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association, please visit: www.rgvdsa.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.