Author: Emily Denholm, ds-connex team member
In 2014, Clyde, Ivan, Emily, and Jake, who each happen to have an extra chromosome, were born a day a part from each other (July 28 – 31) at WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center in Marietta, Georgia. Their families met each other for the first time shortly thereafter, and instantly bonded.
“Every time we tell our story, it amazes people. It just goes to show you that Down syndrome isn’t as rare an occurrence as you may think,” said Ivan’s mom, Nadia. In June of 2015, the families agreed to start a joint walk team for the Atlanta Buddy Walk®, called Team Kennestone Krew. Nadia created the walk team fundraising page, and the families began reaching out to their networks through social media for support.
“We set our team fundraising goal at $2,000 and we reached it in the first week!” said Nadia. The parents were elated by the outpouring of support for their shared journey. “Having the four families join together as one built up enthusiasm for the walk, which helped our fundraising far exceed our initial goal. It also allowed us to spread awareness and reach many more people than if we worked individually,” added Nadia. By the end of walk season, the team (who had reset their goal to $5,000), had reached and surpassed their second fundraising goal, bringing in a total of $5,250 to support the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta!
The day of the Atlanta Buddy Walk® holds special meaning for each of the families on Team Kennestone Krew. Emily’s mother, Nancy, spoke for the group when she shared, “The Buddy Walk has helped us realize we are not alone. There are other people who share in our joys, our struggles, and our accomplishments. It has definitely made me a stronger person and has helped to make me more of an advocate for my little girl. The walk has made me realize there is so much potential for all individuals with Down syndrome, especially our kids. Just seeing the smiles on their faces as they walked, danced and played with their families and friends was such an uplifting experience that words really cannot describe.”
Jake’s mother, Carrie, added how meaningful it is for her son to have buddies already on his walk team. “Jake will forever have three buddies to walk with [not just at the Buddy Walk, but] for life.” All in all, the 2015 walk event was a day of great celebration and fellowship for Team Kennestone Krew and their 40 team members, as well as an opportunity for them to get to know other families in the local Down syndrome community.
The team is already looking forward to the 2016 Atlanta Buddy Walk®. This year, Nadia has hopes for each family on Team Kennestone Krew to hold a mini team fundraiser to help grow their fundraising efforts over last year. They want to continue to raise awareness on Down syndrome and make the day an even bigger celebration for their team’s loved ones. The team is also looking forward to the finish line this year, hoping to celebrate the milestone of Ivan, Clyde, Jake and Emily walking across it.
Emily’s mom, Nancy, sums up the bond of Team Kennestone Krew beautifully. “Knowing we have each other to go through this journey has been very comforting and has given me hope and acceptance that our kids will all go on to do big things. When you have friends like the ‘Krew,’ anything is possible.”
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 walk team’s story.