Annual Buddy Walk celebrates Down syndrome inclusion; raises money
Ava and Kylee are a lot alike. They’re both seven years old; same heart conditions and the same indestructible bond. They call themselves “The Wonder Twins.” They’re like any other best friends. The only difference is that they have Down syndrome.
On Saturday afternoon, “The Wonder Twins” joined 3,000 other people as they walked onto the Jerry Richardson football field, making a statement about Down syndrome awareness at the annual Buddy Walk.
The girls met and have grown closer through events like the Buddy Walk, a 1-mile walk that spreads Down Syndrome awareness and raises money. The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte (DSAGC) raised $187,000 during their largest fundraiser of the year.
“We all benefit from a community that is diverse whether it’s ethnicity, or disability, or race or whatever. We come out here to show how people with differences are still part of the community,” said Buddy Walk Executive Director Kathryn Lariviere.
At the Buddy Walk, teams are made to celebrate each child walking with Down Syndrome. Some of the teams that came out were “Laynie Bugs,” “Kelsey’s Kazoo Band,” and “Michael’s Mousketeers.”
Lariviere’s son, an 11-year-old boy named Cameron, also has Down syndrome. His team is called “Cameron’s Crusaders.”
“As soon as [Cameron] hit the football field, apparently he decided what you’re suppose to do on a football field is tackle people and he started running around tackling his sisters,” Lariviere said, laughing.
The event had arts and crafts, bounce houses and games. Characters like SpongeBob walked the arena. Teams competed to raise money and prizes were given out to the winning teams.
Not only does the Buddy Walk promote Down Syndrome inclusion and acceptance, but it also raises money to support the DSAGC, who works to enhance the quality of life for individuals with Down Syndrome.
This year’s goal was to raise $225,000. Half that amount had already been raised prior to the event.
This was UNC Charlotte’s third year hosting the event. Members of Greek Life, Charlotte Athletics and different UNC Charlotte departments came out to show support and volunteer.
“Our walkers get so excited to walk out on the field. It’s just a really beautiful place to hold it. The UNC community has been very, very welcoming,” Lariviere said.
Senator Richard Burr, who was credited for drafting the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) also attended the walk. The ABLE Act helps people living with disabilities.
To donate visit: http://bit.ly/DSAGCBuddyWalk2016.