‘Buddy Walk’ raises down syndrome awareness

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Jennifer Griffith and her daughter, Courtney, are taking part in the Up with Downs' Shreveport/Bossier Buddy Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 4.

Jennifer Griffith and her daughter, Courtney, are walking hand-in-hand through life.

They enjoy spending time together and doing things most mother/daughter duos like to do – shopping, going to the movies, dining out.

“We’re buddies,” Jennifer said, smiling as she looked at Courtney.

They also like doing the Buddy Walk, an annual event that unites the local Down syndrome community. October is nationally recognized as Down Syndrome Awareness month.

The Up with Downs’ Shreveport/Bossier Buddy Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 4, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the LSU-Shreveport campus. The main goals of the event are “to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome, to raise funds locally and nationally for education, research and advocacy programs, and to enhance the position of the Down syndrome community, enabling us to positively influence local and national policy and practice.”

Griffith said the event is a great way for the community to support the cause and promote awareness.

“It’s growing every year,” Griffith said. “There are a lot more people in our community with Down syndrome than people realize. I meet new people every year and I’ve been involved since [Courtney] was one.”

Courtney is Jennifer’s first born child. The day she was born was the happiest day of her life.

However, there was something that stood out about Courtney’s appearance.

“I was young and had no idea what Down syndrome was,” she said. “The first thought that popped into my head was ‘is she going to live?’ I had no idea.”

It wasn’t until she was given a book in the hospital that she realized just how special her daughter truly was. Courtney, now 20, is involved with Special Olympics, attends Captain Shreve High School and cheers on the Dream Team with Louisiana Cheernastics.

“She really is just like any other person,” Griffith said.

Griffith hopes the Up with Downs event will turn the negative outlook on Down syndrome around.

“All children have their challenges. It’s all about perspective,” she said. “When you’re around them, you don’t even realize they have it. They are just like normal kids. I would love for people in the community to come out and see it for themselves and accept them for that.”

The public is invited to attend the Oct. 4 event. Griffith said she is most looking forward to reconnecting with families in the community she hasn’t seen since the last event and also meeting new people.

“There may be families who don’t know about the services offered in this area or about the support they have here,” Griffith said. “Some of them may feel alone and that’s not how it should be.”

Courtney, however, is looking forward to seeing all her friends and buddies again

“We celebrate the things they can do, not what they can’t,” Jennifer said. This year, there will be several Bounce Houses, Music from KVKI, food/drinks provided by Canes, face painting, and balloons by Dat does da trick, and more. There will also be several photographers there to capture the events of the day.

Funds raised at the Buddy Walk are used to pay for various things throughout the year, including the “Precious Gifts” kits for new parents, advocacy training, books, guest speakers and materials for families, for our annual social gatherings. They also give a portion to the National Down Syndrome Society and other local organizations that provide services to any special needs individuals.

For more information, visit www.upwithdowns.com, call (318) 797-8575 or send an e-mail to Upwithdowns@hotmail.com.