Families and friends gathered for the annual Down Syndrome Support Team Buddy Walk the last Sunday of September. It is traditionally held on that date— though here and there over the years the Buddy Walk has jumped up or back a week. The Buddy Walk takes place on a one mile loop in Gallup Park, then walkers return for Pizza House pizza, music, a silent auction, raffles and games. Last year due to the pandemic we cancelled the walk. It felt good to be back, even with a few changes.
With the strain of the pandemic on businesses we chose not to solicit for the silent auction. However, many beautifully generous raffle baskets were donated and we held a 50/50 raffle. The popcorn machine was going and the band, Know Obstacles, was playing. Leonardo, the lead singer, always packs extra instruments for the kids to play and invites them to jump up on the stage. We chose not to have open pizza due to the pandemic (though we sure missed our Pizza House pizza!) and instead offered pre-packaged snacks that the kids loved.
The weather was an incredible blessing. The skies were a high, bright blue and the temperatures hovered in the low 70s. A light breeze offered just the right refreshment.
Wil’s first Buddy Walk was when he was 7 months old. At the time, the University of Michigan gymnastics team volunteered at the Buddy Walk. I have a photo of all the gymnasts gathered together holding baby Wil. It was 90 degrees that day.
The next year the Herron family joined us and have nearly every year since. Theresa Herron was Wil’s speech therapist at the time. I met her daughters, Ivy and Amelia, and they began to babysit Wil. Each year at the Buddy Walk, it became tradition for Wil to take turns getting piggy-back rides along the walk with Theresa, her husband Jordan, Ivy, Amelia and their brother Elijah.
Beckie Brewis, Wil’s Early On coordinator joined us each year, too, as did the Helquists, Desbroughs and Gregorys; friends we made through a program led by Beckie called First Steps. When Wil entered preschool then elementary school, he met Sarah Stommen, Ashley Bobo and Lila Harvey. Their families have joined us nearly each year since. As Wil grew, the love from our Manchester community grew too, and many more families have joined and supported the Buddy Walk. Manchester’s very own SteeleGrafix made the Buddy Walk t-shirts this year!
The Buddy Walk love has now extended to the friends I have made in my workplace, Orangetheory Fitness. It always awes me how love can spread.
This being our family’s 15th Buddy Walk (we had our own personal Buddy Walk with friends last year in Manchester), we have walked through rain, sunshine and unprecedented heat. We now walk through unprecedented changes in our lives. However, the spirit of the Buddy Walk remains constant – the love and support of individuals with Down syndrome.