Buddy Walk bolsters awareness of Down syndrome
Members of Imperial Valley dance group Alegría de los Angeles dance at the eighth annual Down Syndrome Assocation of Imperial Valley Buddy Walk on Saturday in El Centro.
Less than a minute after Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” started, Morey had thrown both his star-spangled hat and jacket off and tossed them toward the crowd.
Yet 19-year-old Morey was just one example of the many locals (and those with local ties) with Down syndrome who showcased their special talents and participated Saturday in the Down Syndrome Association of Imperial Valley’s eighth annual Buddy Walk, at Bucklin Park in El Centro.
The Buddy Walk, held nationwide and in select foreign countries, “is a one-mile walk in which anyone can participate without special training,” according to buddywalk.org
“It is an inspirational and educational event that celebrates the many abilities and accomplishments of people with Down syndrome,” the Web site reads.
Xochitl M. Garcia, event coordinator and treasurer of the Down Syndrome Association of Imperial Valley, said the local Buddy Walk has about 300 participants every year.
“This Buddy Walk is to create awareness, acceptance and inclusion for people with Down syndrome,” Garcia said.
“We have a resource fair and also we have teams of families. Each family walks with their child or adult with Down syndrome,” she said. “Some (families have) groups of 40 or 70.”
“We do this once a year to educate the public and the parents that they can find support in this area, within (the local Down Syndrome Association),” DSAIV President Leonor Verdugo said in Spanish.
“For me it’s very important that the community is aware of (our) group,” she said. “We meet once a month to support each other and share information. Every year we have this Buddy Walk as part of the international (movement).
“We celebrate because October is the month when international Buddy Walks are held,” Verdugo said. “This is our eighth year and we hope to have a ninth one next year, God willing.”
After the actual walk around the park, Verdugo said the families get together and have picnics, play games, jump in jumpers and have a great time.
“What makes us different in the Valley is that there is a lot of family support of the children and adults (with Down syndrome),” Verdugo said. “(Because of this), we get people from Mexicali, Phoenix, San Diego and we’re very proud that people come here from other areas.”
And people like Morey’s mother Emy Morey, who lives in San Diego, attended for similar reasons.
“This event is good for people to understand that people with disabilities are part of the community like you and I,” she said.
“A lot of people still don’t accept people with disabilities and this event shows the community that they have rights and talent too,” Morey said. “We need the support.”
For more information on the Down Syndrome Association of Imperial Valley or its monthly meetings, contact the Exceptional Family Resource Center at 760-355-0147 or Leonor Verdugo at 760-639-8363.
Staff Writer Roman Flores can be reached at 760-337-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org