My family attended our local Down syndrome walk for the 11th straight year. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll make this year your first of many of attending your local organization’s walk.
Our local organization, Down Syndrome of Louisville (DSL), held it’s annual awareness walk on October 4th. Just as the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday in May, DSL holds its walk on the first Saturday in October each year.
When my daughter was born in 2004, the walk drew around 1,500 and raised around $65,000. We added on-line giving in 2005 and the walk almost doubled in funds raised to $120,000. Then a committee was formed, the food offerings became more numerous, and a 5K and kid fun zone were added. This year our walk had 3,000 attendees and close to $170,000 raised.
Each year we look forward to reconnecting with friends we made when Juliet was born and their children were also toddlers. As the years have passed, and the children are in different schools, fortunately we have the Walk each year to catch up.
While standing with these friends, I realized and said out loud:
Do you know we’ve been coming to this Walk for the past 10 years and seeing each other?
The Walk has become such a natural part of our life that we hadn’t ever stopped to appreciate the passage of time.
At that first walk, I remember watching the older children and particularly the adults. I wondered if that was what Juliet would be like when she got to those ages. But, over the years, instead of watching these older children and seeing them as possible examples of what Juliet may be like, I’ve instead gotten to know them.
There’s Emily, and Daniel, Hadley and Kate, and my friend Brian who mailed me a card for my birthday (asking for my address by messaging me on Facebook). None of these individuals followed a well-laid out path of development, directing them towards some known end. Each of them has grown as each of us has, learning from experiences, acquiring characteristics and personalities formed by those experiences and their relationships with family and friends.
There is no set path, and there is no set outcome for Juliet. Instead, what attending the Walk has shown me over the years is that all these individuals with Down syndrome are just that: individuals. And, they each have their own lives that you’ll discover for yourself if you take the time to get to know them.
The very next Saturday, I was exhibiting at the ACOG Regional conference for Regions V and VII. That same day, Down Syndrome Indiana held its annual Walk. My co-exhibitor from the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio and I attended the DSI Walk. We were impressed by the 5,000 in attendance; the multitude of tables color-coded for families to sit by region of the state from where they came from; and, the excellent BBQ to enjoy at the walk’s conclusion.
On Facebook, I saw where the Charlotte organization persevered through rain showers to hold their Walk this past Saturday as well.
More than likely, there is a Walk where you are. You don’t have to commit to attending your local walk for 11 consecutive years. But, if you’re interested in learning about a life with Down syndrome, you can decide to attend your first.
I hope you will this year.
Your local organization in the United States can be found at this link.