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Buddy Walk Aims to Step Up Awareness, Acceptance of Down Syndrome

Register as an individual, team or family for Saturday's event at Chase Palm Park

The first-ever — but soon to be annual — Down Syndrome Association of Santa Barbara County Buddy Walk and Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, June 19, at Chase Palm Park to help raise money and awareness, and bring the community together in support of those with Down syndrome.

“It’s a feel-good day all around, a happy time,” said Melissa Fitch, organizer of the event and the mom of a special-needs child.

With about 93 percent of net proceeds staying in the Santa Barbara area, the event truly is by the community, for the community. The proceeds will go toward supporting new and expectant parents, reaching the medical community, providing resource referrals, enrichment programs, activities, parent support and more to enhance the lives of individuals born with Down syndrome and their families throughout the Santa Barbara County.

Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition; one in every 733 live births is a child with Down syndrome, according to the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.

The Buddy Walk program was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to mark Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The Buddy Walk aims to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

The one-mile Buddy Walk doesn’t require special training. In addition to the walk, participants can enjoy games, crafts, and lunch provided by Surf Dog, entertainment, as well as an information fair, all of which is included in the fee to walk.

Highlights include drums with local Boom Chaka, Mark the Magician, 12-year-old singer songwriter Jamey Geston and storyteller Bud Bottoms, the keen crafter behind Santa Barbara’s dolphin statue.

“The walk portion is small,” Fitch said. “It’s more about celebrating and enhancing lives of children.”

The Buddy Walk will take place at Chase Palm Park’s Great Meadow, 323 E. Cabrillo Blvd. Pre-registered participant check-in and event-day registration will be from 11 am to noon. Entertainment, a vendor fair, games, arts and crafts will begin at 11 a.m. as well and carry on through 4 p.m. The Buddy Walk will be from 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

The cost is $25 for adults, $15 for adults with Down syndrome, $10 for children ages 3 to 17. Children age 3 or younger are free. The cost includes the walk, a T-shirt, lunch, and all of the entertainment and activities.

Advance registration is encouraged. Click here to sign up online. Participants can register as individuals, a team or as a family. Or, for those who can’t attend the event, there’s the option to be a virtual walker, allowing the person to show up on the team’s roster.

Teams can have a team name, a team captain and their own Web site. The Web sites are customizable, and users can choose the colors and background, add pictures and track their members’ progress. Each team’s page shows their fundraising goal, the total amount they have raised to date, their recruitment goal and the number of people they have recruited to walk for their team.

Donations can be made to the general fund, to an individual or to a team.

The day is really to “celebrate their abilities,” said Fitch, who described the day as a way to “show people how people with Down syndrome are more alike than they are different.”

Noozhawk intern Lindsey Weintraub will be a sophomore at the University of San Diego in the fall. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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