Walk Team Spotlight – For the Love of Kai of the WIUSD Buddy Walk®

Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member

On Sunday, October 8th, the Wisconsin Upside Down organization will celebrate its 2017 Buddy Walk® event at North Shore Middle School in Hartland, WI. Hoping to raise $25,000 this year, there are more than twenty teams working hard to meet that goal. We had the pleasure of learning more about one of these teams, For the Love of Kai, from team captain (and mom!) Ashley Reyes.

Kai is a spunky one year old with a contagious laugh who loves to play with his sister, watch Baby Einstein DVDs, and pet animals. He has recently started crawling, self-feeding, and has been trying to pull to stand. For the Love of Kai walks in his honor, and this will be the team’s second year at the WIUSD Buddy Walk®.

WIUSD Buddy Walk - For the love of Kai

Ashley first became involved with WIUSD after connecting with Robbin Lyons, President and Co-founder of WIUSD, at the suggestion of the social worker at the hospital where Kai was in the NICU. When she met with Robbin, plans for the 2016 walk were already underway, and Robbin encouraged Ashley and her family to attend the walk so they could meet other families. Because they wanted to know what to expect in the coming years, they decided to go to the walk. “Sometimes the unknown can be scary, but we realized there was not much to be worried about really; he will reach all the same milestones as typical children,” Ashley shared.

This year, the Reyes family is walking to share their love and support for Kai as well as to help WIUSD reach their financial goal so they can continue to provide new families with the same guidance and support that Kai’s family received. Ashley’s most successful fundraising tactic so far has been to network with her family and friends to determine which local businesses could donate to their team. This is a great opportunity for businesses to advertise locally while helping their community. Ashley explained that “there are many businesses that want to help local non-profits and just need you to ask. Some businesses knew me or my family member or friend, but many did not and still were excited to help the cause!”

To recruit team members, Ashley lets friends and family members know how much WIUSD has done for her family, and explains that she wants to help their mission. She also encourages them to invite the people they know to walk with them, too, in support of Kai. Ashley hopes that her team members enjoy the day, but she also wants them to see the community that their donations are helping by raising money for WIUSD. Her team can expect a “very enjoyable day for the whole family and to meet some very sweet and enjoyable people.”

Ashley would encourage new families to get involved in the walk: “Just go for it, with gusto!” She shared that she fundraises because “of all of the support I received from WIUSD when I didn’t even know I needed it.” She also explained that she is “passionate about making sure WIUSD can help others the way they have helped me, and I make sure people I am asking for money know this.”

Having raised more than $4770 so far, Ashley has nearly met her fundraising goal; you can support her team’s fundraising here. We hope that For the Love of Kai has a wonderful time at this year’s WIUSD Buddy Walk®.

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: support@ds-connex.org.

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