On October 26th, 2019, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem (DSAGWS) hosted the 19th-annual Buddy Walk at West Forsyth High School. This event is the largest fundraiser this organization hosts each year to raise money for its programming. This year was the most successful Buddy Walk they have ever had, with over 1,000 registered participants, 40 local sponsors, and $85,000 raised.
The Buddy Walk was created in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society. This event serves to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome. It is hosted in the month of October, so it can simultaneously celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month. In 1995 there were 17 Buddy Walks. In 2019 there were over 250.
The 2019 Buddy Walk at West Forsyth High School was one to remember. Registered participants were each given a T-shirt and treated to a variety of food donated by many local restaurants. The walk itself is one lap around the West Forsyth High School Track. This allows participants of any ability to participate. Once the walk was completed, participants were able to enjoy the festival-like atmosphere and lots of entertainment.
Participants enjoyed a variety of fun family activities that day. Executive Director of DSAGWS Jay Callahan said, “This is so much more than just a walk. This is an opportunity to come together as a community and enjoy a family festival while raising awareness and promoting inclusion for people with Down Syndrome.” It is also a great opportunity for families to connect and have a lot of fun.
The entertainment this year was hosted by MC David Daggett. The Tyler Millard Band took the stage as well as the Davie High School Cheerleading Squad, that has a member with Down Syndrome. There was also a talent show that showcased the singing, dancing, and various other talents of some of the DSAGWS members. Other activities included face painting, fairy hair, games, a train ride, and more.
One of the highlights of the Buddy Walk is that the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem uses it as an opportunity to recognize one special volunteer. The Buddy of the Year Award is given to a volunteer that has gone above and beyond to show their commitment to the organization and selflessly give of their time. This year, West Forsyth Teacher Stuart Egan was recognized as the 2019 Buddy of the Year. In addition to being a member of DSAGWS and having a middle school child with Down Syndrome, he gives his time regularly to the organization, including coordination of over 300 volunteers for The Buddy Walk.
The money raised at this year’s event will be used to support the programming and advocacy for DSAGWS. Some of the funds will go to provide scholarships for members to attend national organization conferences, to participate in therapeutic horseback riding at RiverWood and social groups for parents with children who have Down Syndrome. The funds will also be used to host the “No Limits” dances throughout the year. These dances are for all individuals with disabilities and provide a club-like experience, fellowship, and fun.
If you would like more information about the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston-Salem, you can visit their website at www.dsagws.org. There you will find more information about the organization, the programs, the advocacy they provide, and more. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Winston Salem – DSAGWS. Keep an eye out for their upcoming events, including the Deacon Dash on March 21st and Victory Day in April!