On Saturday, September 23rd, the Rio Grande Down Syndrome Network will celebrate its 2017 Buddy Walk® at the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Leading the group of teams helping the RGDSN work toward their $50,000 fundraising goal is Derek’s Superfly Crüe, led by team captain (and Derek’s mom) Jeannine Barreras. We had the pleasure of learning more about Derek and RGDSN’s event from Jeannine as they prepare for their celebration in September.
The Barreras family’s team honors Jeannine’s nine year old son, Derek, who will be in fourth grade this year. Derek enjoys everything sports: he participates in track and swimming with the local Special Olympics team, plays little league baseball on an inclusive community team, and loves basketball. In addition to sports, he enjoys dancing, playing video games, and doing “something fun” with his family. While working diligently on his academic goals, Derek was recently able to complete a math workbook without using his counting sheet, and his reading skills are growing as well. Derek likes to read Pete the Cat books, watches American Ninja Warrior on television, and counts pizza, sourdough bread, and vanilla ice cream as his favorite foods.
Derek’s Superfly Crüe has participated in the RGDSN Buddy Walk® for the last five years. Jeannine explained that they became members of RGDSN when Derek was born, and as he got older, they “wanted to support Derek and our community.” She went on to share that she and her husband Michael are “passionate about inclusion and feel the need and desire to show our community that our children with Down syndrome are just like every other child, they just need a little extra TLC sometimes.”
Jeannine uses Facebook and email to invite all of her family and friends to join their team and make a donation. As a business owner, she also asks her close business friends via email and phone to support their team. She said that “just asking people” has been her most successful fundraising tactic. She shared that she was initially apprehensive to ask her business associates, but then realized that as a family business, the people she knows not only support her business but also her family. She asked herself “What is the harm in asking them directly to support my child and his Down syndrome community?” Her business associates are very generous, and her business contributes to the Buddy Walk® and is the team’s t-shirt sponsor.
Jeannine also plans team fundraisers. This year, her friend who belongs to a sorority is going to host a Superfly Crüe dress down meeting. “Derek may get to go there and jump start their meeting and help motivate!” She is also planning to ask one of the local high school football teams to do a pushup contest.
Jeannine explains the event to family and friends by sharing that “it is a fun day,” and that “Derek beams with pride being surrounded by family and friends and it’s filled with love all day.” She hopes her team members “feel the joy knowing they are helping Derek directly here in New Mexico and the Down syndrome community as a whole.” She explained that “people who know my son instantly smile when they see him, and I’m hopeful that being a part of his team bring them that memory of him and how he makes them feel.” To show their appreciation of their team members’ support, the Barreras family provides a Superfly Crüe t-shirt, and they also host the team at their home after the walk for lunch, beers, and sangria. Their team members can expect a great time; “their cheeks will hurt, because they will be smiling from ear to ear the entire time!”
Jeannine would encourage new team captains by suggesting they set up their page, and then ask those closest to you to sign up and then share the page with their friends. “Use social media, it is the easiest way to get the word out to everyone,” she shared. “You have to remind people; they forget, we are all busy. Don’t get your feelings hurt if someone doesn’t reply; just resend. Don’t be afraid to ask; all they can do is ignore you or say no! No harm, no foul. Be creative, and don’t be afraid. You will be beautifully surprised at the generosity of those you know.”
Jeannine’s favorite memories of their walk event include seeing Derek’s face light up when their team t-shirts arrive, and seeing him beam with pride when he is surrounded by his team. He proudly says “This is my team, this is Derek’s Superfly Crüe!” Jeannine loves “seeing so many people together for the same cause, to support someone and everyone with Down syndrome. It is a feeling like no other.”
Jeannine, Derek, Michael, and the rest of the Superfly Crüe will soon get to experience those feelings again at the 2017 RGDSN Buddy Walk®. We can’t wait to hear all about it! To learn more about the RGDSN Buddy Walk®, please visit their Stride fundraising site: http://www.ds-stride.org/rgdsnbuddywalk.
This post is a part of our ongoing Walk Team Spotlight blog series, which profiles Down syndrome walk teams sharing their unique backstories, as well as fundraising, recruitment and networking tips! Check back for future posts in this series coming soon. Submit your story ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org.