We have attended a number of interesting events this Fall. One of the most uplifting was participating in a humongous Buddy Walk sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association. This annual event attracted almost 5,000 participants this year.
Sarah’s friend, Gwen, first introduced us to Best Buddies and the Buddy Walk while she was a student at the University of Texas. Gwen has known Walker most of his life, and during the years she has lived in Memphis she has invited him to be her Buddy at the walk several times. Gwen majored in Special Ed and is now a great mom to three adorable children…and is back in Memphis where I hope she stays!
Steffen and Walker attend this walk every year, because they’re definitely Best Buddies. This year, at Gwen’s prompting, I formed a team of Walker's Walkers and ended up having a wonderfully warm crowd of supporters attend, including Gwen and her children. Many thanks to those who donated and/or walked with us. These are the friends and family who walk with us most every day, our Best Buddies, and for them we are truly thankful.
As I surveyed the crowd I saw families of all kinds with children and adults with Down Syndrome. I could relate to every one of them, because at one time or another I was that new mom with her baby in a stroller walking with her husband, checking things out. I was that mom chasing down her toddler with Down Syndrome while carrying a newborn baby in her arms. I am that mom of a young adult, still hoping he'll show good manners and be cordial to our guests. I don't think I realized how many of us there were until I saw so many at the park that day.
One of the best parts of the day was seeing Company D perform. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZxEgS_2MZA
Darlene Winters, who was Walker’s speech teacher and drama coach at Madonna Day School for a number of years, directs Company D, and has has been trying for quite a while to get Walker to participate in the group. Between work, the time demands of being a member of the performance group, and Walker's total lack of interest in dancing in public, this just didn't seem to be in the cards.
Last week Darlene sent me an e-mail asking whether Walker would like to go to Dollywood with the troupe. He could be her assistant and provide tech support and he would travel on a bus with others his age, spending two nights in a hotel. I knew what his reaction would be…”No way!”…but I signed him up anyway. He’s off on Thursday for his first outing with friends in his adult life, and he’s actually beginning to be excited about it.
He has been reassured that taking a day off work isn’t a big deal because his spending money won’t be decreased. He has agreed to do his laundry and get his cell phone charged on Wednesday night instead of Thursday. He has been reassured that he won’t miss Halloween. He’s ready to go!
I will say a little prayer for the safety of the group, and hope that it leads to Walker realizing that having Down Syndrome isn’t always a bad thing…sometimes it leads to Dollywood! Perhaps he’ll come home with a whole group of new Best Buddies. I'll let you know.