Down Syndrome organizations in Normal are working together to raise awareness, raise funds and raise hope for a brighter tomorrow.
The ninth annual National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk starts at 10:30 a.m. on Sat. Sept. 28.
The walk is hosted by the Central Illinois Down Syndrome Organization (CIDSO), which is a not-for-profit organization for people who are interested in raising awareness for Down syndrome.
Jean Bates, former President of CIDSO and committee member for the Buddy Walk, explained that each year, the event is a great way for families and friends to raise money and awareness for people with the disability.
“It is a day to celebrate achievements and to meet people with Down syndrome that do many of the same things everyone else does,” Bates said.
“Each year I see people leave the event with a greater understanding that we are all more alike than different.”
Approximately 800 people participate in the walk each year. The walk is one mile long and runs from Carden Park to Prairieland Elementary School in Normal.
ISU organizations, such as the Gamma Phi Circus, ISU Football, Council for Exceptional Children Organization, Students Serving Individuals with Disabilities and several fraternities and sororities have taken part in the walk since the beginning, Bates said.
“90 percent of the funds raised at this event stay in the community to support our programs and services,” she explained.
“Two of the programs that we fund are housed at ISU: the Adult Literacy program and the Speech and Language Program, which was actually started by our friend and former President of ISU — Al Bowman.”
While the walk itself does not start until 10:30, participants are welcome at Carden park as early as 9 a.m. for registration, to pick up t-shirts, enter raffles and enjoy the free food. The cost for registration is $5.
In order to raise funds for the cause, participants are encouraged to form a Spirit Team, where they would work as a group to raise the money, and then walk together at the event.
CIDSO has been serving the community for over 30 years, Bates said.
“We provide a newsletter, website, Facebook, resource library, workshops, a grant program, Enrichment program for families, Adult literacy program, Speech and Language program and new parent packets just to name a few,” she added.
This year, Bates and other people on the committee for the Buddy Walk are hoping to have another good turnout in order to uplift the families who have someone with Down syndrome.
“It is our hope that people will come to realize that we are all more alike than different,” she explained.
“Individuals with Down syndrome have feelings, talents, dreams and desire for friendships just like everyone else. And those with Down syndrome deserve to be accepted for who they are and what they contribute to out community.”
To pre-register for the Buddy Walk, visit www.firstgiving.com/cidso/2013BW.
For more information on CIDSO, visit their website at http://www.cidso.org or call at (309) 452-3264.