Buddies With A Cause

The National Down Syndrome Society celebrates Down Syndrome Awareness month with their twentieth annual Buddy Walk at Southwood Town Center Park.

The National Down Syndrome Society promotes acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

Carla Hills, coordinator for Human Resources for the Plant Operations for Maintenance at Florida A&M University, attends the walk yearly to support her 10-year-old daughter Cydnee Gibson. She said that caring for her daughter is a new experience every day.

“She’s mainstreamed in music and art and is a member of chorus. She loves school and loves to learn. People in general with disabilities are no different from us,” Hills said.

The program has raised millions of dollars and has acquired thousands of participants. In 2011, the Buddy Walk made its way all the way to Japan at the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa. According to Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council Survey, it’s ranked in the top 30 fundraising events nationwide for money raised, number of participants and best series event since 2008.

Scott Maddox, Tallahassee’s city commissioner, said that the crowd has been the largest he’s seen in years.

“This is a fantastic walk for a great cause,” Maddox said. “The most important thing about today is the smiles on everyone’s faces.”

Down syndrome is the most common genetic condition.  One in every 691 babies is born with the intellectual disability. Nearly 400,000 Americans are diagnosed and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States every year.

Kelsey Barney, a rehab technician, said her patients with Down syndrome serve as inspiration.

“They’re so happy and they don’t realize all the stuff they have to deal with and regardless has a smile on their face,” Barney said.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has an extra chromosome 21. People among all races, ethnicities and socioeconomics can develop Down syndrome.

The cause of Down syndrome is currently unknown. People with Down syndrome can have physical problems as well as intellectual disabilities. However, a person can acquire new skills and talents. They are just like any average person that attends school, develops friendships and make positive contributions to the community.