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Thursday, Feb. 22
The Indiana Daily Student

Down syndrome event raises awareness, funds for families

Down Syndrome Buddy Walk

Hundreds of people gathered in Bryan Park on Sunday — all of them buddies.

They were there for the fourth annual Buddy Walk, the goal of which is to raise donations as well as awareness for Bloomington residents with Down syndrome.

Event organizers said more than 300 walks take place around the world during October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

“We are here to connect people,” said Cyndi Johnson, one of the board members of Down Syndrome Family Connection, which coordinated the Buddy Walk. “There are beauties and unique gifts within Down syndrome patients that we should celebrate.”

Johnson said she started Down Syndrome Family Connection in 2006 with several other mothers that have children with Down syndrome.

In August 2008, they formed a board of directors within the organization and coordinated the first Buddy Walk in October of the same year.

Johnson said the organization has been working with 35 families from Bloomington and the surrounding area to connect them through care and understanding. She said raising the funding for that initiative was another purpose of the Buddy Walk.

“We are hoping to raise $15,000 this year,” Johnson said. “The last time I checked, we have raised around $9,000. We are very hopeful to reach our goal since we have not included those (donations) from our sponsors.”

By the time the walk started, event organizers estimated there were about 1,000 participants, including 800 that had registered online in advance.

“We have seen more people than previous years so far,” Johnson said.

Organizers said what made this year’s walk different was not just the number of participants it attracted or the donations it raised, but also the family-friendly environment it created. A carnival area was built on-site for kids. Children could enjoy games, caricatures, tattoos and an animal show.

There was a long and short version of the walk, which toured Bryan Park.
Ivy Tech freshman Evan Pritchard was one of the volunteers that helped set up the walk.

He said a class project required him to complete four hours of community service, but he did more than that.

“It’s a lot of fun here,” Pritchard said. “This is my first time living in Bloomington and working at this event. It is a great experience helping a good cause.”

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