Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
Walk Profile: 11th Annual SENM Buddy Walk® presented by Roswell Toyota
Walk Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Who: Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico (DSFSENM)
Location: Spring River Park & Zoo; Roswell, NM
Walk Registration Website: http://www.ds-stride.org/senmbuddywalk
Organization Website: http://www.dsfsenm.org/
This year, the SENM Buddy Walk® is tapping into the local phenomenon known as Area 51, with the event theme “Take Me To Your Buddy Walk®.” SENM staff members Missy Holman, Bethany Johnston, and Carol Cunningham sat down with us to tell us more about their out-of-this-world event.
“It’s like Disneyland – everyone wants to go!” says Bethany. The SENM Buddy Walk® is much more than an event, it’s an opportunity for families to reconnect and spend time together – growing a stronger community. “We do have a family reunion dinner the night before the walk for self-advocates and their families to get together to socialize and enjoy a free meal,” adds Missy. Almost 200 people attended last year’s dinner, with food generously donated from a local Mexican restaurant. It’s an opportunity for the DSFSENM team to see families and celebrate with everyone prior to the event. In addition to a photo booth, there is also a talent show where self-advocates get to show off for the crowd!
The next morning is when the SENM Buddy Walk® takes place at the Roswell Zoo. The walk route goes through the zoo and out to a duck pond and park area, where additional activities are set up for all participants, human or extraterrestrial, to enjoy. There will be various vendors, bounce houses, kids games and a booth for snow cones, just to name a few. The zoo also has a carousel and a train city that are free to ride for walk participants. A Strider Bike Zone (new this year!) will also be set up for kids to ride around and the local fire department will have its fireman obstacle course challenge.
For Bethany and Carol, their favorite moment from the past Buddy Walk® events is the medal ceremony for the self-advocates. At the end of the walk, each individual with Down syndrome has their name announced and is invited on stage to receive their medal. Last year, they had the special opportunity to meet Miss New Mexico as well. Missy recalls comically, “I’ve never seen so many grown men with Down syndrome so excited to be at the Buddy Walk®! They thought it was the greatest!”
The DSFSENM team has high hopes for this year’s walk event, which is a vital funding sources for the valuable programs the organization offers to the local Down syndrome community. “We really want to hit our goal of $60,000 and 1,000 walkers,” says the SENM team. Funds raised will be used to provide year-round speech therapy, a large education workshop in the spring (15 school districts present – administration, teachers and therapists), a medical outreach program, a health and wellness program, as well as cooking, swimming, and music classes, and a golf camp. Money raised is also used to support civic outreach and awareness and parents groups.
In addition to the impact the funds raised have, there is also immense value in the event for self-advocates and their families. “It is so inspiring to see all of the hard work come together and do what it does,” says Missy. “Whether it’s a new mom that comes up to me and tells me that the walk has changed her day or her feelings. Or someone like Carol, who has experienced the loss of a sibling with Down syndrome and shares their story to impact others. Or someone like the former mayor, who came to the event once and now comes back each year to support it. Everyone can walk away from the event and know that behind it all, they are truly helping someone else.”
To show your support for the walk, please visit the SENM Buddy Walk® fundraising site at http://www.ds-stride.org/senmbuddywalk. To learn more about the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico, please visit http://www.dsfsenm.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.