State Walks for Down Syndrome
Kecia Cox holds her son Noah Cox at Utah Down Syndrome Foundation’s 2016 Buddy Walk. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)
By Tori La Rue | firstname.lastname@example.org
Baby Noah Cox joined his parents and six siblings in his first Buddy Walk at the Veterans Memorial Park in West Jordan on Sept. 10.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and more than 250 communities across the nation host special festivities called Buddy Walks to promote acceptance of people with Down syndrome, a genetic chromosomal disorder. The Cox family has attended Utah Down Syndrome Foundation’s statewide walk for nine years—since one family member was diagnosed with the disorder.
“We love it because we feel like it is an extended family here at the event,” Kecia Cox, Noah’s mother, said about the Buddy Walk. “All these kids with Down syndrome are going through a similar thing. When you get all this community support, you realize it is not a scary thing.”
The family adopted Noah, who also has Down syndrome, from the Ukraine in April, so the walk was a timely event to celebrate what he and their other two children with Down Syndrome bring to the family, Kecia said.
Each child with Down syndrome was invited to create a team of walkers, including family, friends, neighbors and teachers to walk under their team name. The signature event, a one-third of a mile walk-about, consisted of 63 teams. More than 1,000 people attended.
The statewide event also included a 5k race, a Scales and Tails Reptile Show, carnival games, a fish pond, dancing, paper rocket launching, a spud-derby, photo ops with people dressed as superheroes, a lunch hosted by Chick-fil-A and an awards ceremony.
Autumn White, 11, launched rockets and watched the reptile show with her 7-year-old sister, Sage White. Sage has Down Syndrome, and Autumn attends Buddy Walks and adaptive recreation programs with her.
“I have seen a lot kids with Down syndrome who aren’t happy, and I think it is amazing for other people to care and donate their time just to make sure other people have fun,” Autumn said. “I like to watch their faces brighten up. My sister is always laughing and smiling at things like this.”
Laura White, Sage and Autumn’s mother, said the Buddy Walk provided an environment where “no one felt zeroed out.”
The activities gave families opportunities to bond with other community members who are going through similar circumstances, Judy Hall, event coordinator, said. Families from small towns may be the only family in miles experiencing Down syndrome, so they look forward to the annual Buddy Walk to network with other families, she said.
The Buddy Walk was not limited to only families of people with Down syndrome. The community was invited to the event, according to Hall.
“I think the biggest way this event helps is to make people aware of people in the community with Down syndrome and that they are more alike than different,” Steven Hansen, CEO of Utah Down Syndrome Foundation, said. “Physically, yeah, you can tell that most kids have Down syndrome, but, you know, they can do just about anything that anybody else can do. It takes them a little longer, but with time and patience and help, they can accomplish great things.”
The next Utah Down Syndrome Foundation Buddy Walk will take place around the same time next year.