Buddy Walk Events for Down Syndrome Awareness Get Creative Amidst COVID-19 Concerns

New York, New York, UNITED STATES


Since 1995, community groups and local Down syndrome organizations across the country have gathered each year as part of the National Buddy Walk® Program. Founded by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in 1995, the Buddy Walk celebrates individuals with Down syndrome and raises awareness and funds for local and national programming. This year, Buddy Walk organizers face the difficult decision of determining how to hold their annual events amidst concerns over COVID-19.


Like many charity walks, Buddy Walk events attract thousands of participants and involve activities that are currently not allowed by local or state officials or are difficult to carry out while following CDC guidelines. Yet, with a lot of creativity, and support from NDSS and each other, Buddy Walk events are going virtual and developing new ways to meet their goals.


“The Buddy Walk has always been about more than walking,” stated Kandi Pickard, President and CEO of NDSS. “It’s about the people we walk for, like my son Mason, and about coming together, both in our local cities and across the country. While our events will look different this year, they will still celebrate our community and demonstrate the contributions individuals with Down syndrome make to our society.”


On September 12, the flagship Buddy Walk in New York City will become a nation-wide virtual event, complete with streaming of the annual Times Square Video Presentation, featuring photos of 500 individuals with Down syndrome from across the country. While participants will miss the opportunity to walk through Central Park together, teams look forward to involving relatives, friends and co-workers who haven’t been able to participate in the past. “The great thing about a virtual event, is that you can be a part of it from wherever you are,” noted NDSS Board Member Tiffany Barfield who attends the New York City Buddy Walk every year.


While many Buddy Walk events will include a virtual walk, local groups are also incorporating other activities designed to connect the community while following social distancing guidelines. Several local organizations are encouraging families to hold a celebration that fits their preferences such as a backyard BBQ, others are planning a car parade through town, and some are hosting additional virtual activities such as bingo, a dance party or an online auction.


“Because we have to change so much about our event, we knew we wanted it to be bigger and better in as many ways as possible,” said Jennie Griffin of the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville whose walk is October 17. “We were a bit worried about going virtual, but our teams are just as enthusiastic as ever. Families are getting really creative with their celebrations, which is exactly what we hoped for. Celebrating our loved ones is what the Buddy Walk is all about.”


The majority of Buddy Walk events take place between August and November. A list of currently planned virtual walks is available on the NDSS website here.


About Buddy Walk®

Since 1995, the National Buddy Walk Program has been the premier Down syndrome awareness, advocacy and peer-to-peer fundraising program in the world. It was created by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome and to raise funds for local and national incentives to support the Down syndrome community. Today, more than 200 Buddy Walk events take place in cities across the country and in select international locations. The 2020 National Buddy Walk Program is supported by National Buddy Walk Sponsor, John’s Crazy Socks. To learn more and find a Buddy Walk near you, visit www.buddywalk.org.


About NDSS

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome. NDSS programming includes the National Advocacy & Policy Center, which seeks to create systemic change through engaged advocacy; the National Buddy Walk® Program, which honors and celebrates individuals with Down syndrome in local communities across the world, and other key programs that provide support, informational resources, and community engagement opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome and those who love and support for them. Visit www.ndss.org for more information about NDSS programs and resources.



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