Monday, October 7, 2013

The History of the Buddy Walk

We are gearing up for the Buddy Walk THIS Saturday, so I thought I would find some information on the Buddy Walk to share :)

Introduced in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the Buddy Walk was a major breakthrough in promoting the acceptance and inclusion of all people with Down syndrome.  The Buddy Walk has become the premier advocacy event for Down syndrome in the United States.  It is also the world's most widely recognized public awareness program for the Down syndrome community.  It also celebrates Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October.

Chris Burke led the flagship New York City Buddy Walk in 1995.

In 1999, NDSS introduced the Times Square Video to bring attention to the Buddy Walk program and raise awareness of individuals with Down syndrome in a public setting.  Also this year, the Buddy Walk added a fundraising component to raise money for local and national programs and services.  Sophia has her very own fundraising page at:  And in the past 5 years, Sophia, along with lots of great supporters, has helped raise almost $7,500 for Down Syndrome Awareness! 

Some of the programs and services that are given locally, out of Indianapolis, through Down Syndrome Indiana are: New Parent Information & Resource Packets, given to expecting mothers or families who have just welcomed a new baby into their lives sporting that extra chromosome.  Also Educators' Resources to help better prepare you and your child's educational team for the school years ahead.  Social Activities for families to get together, and Support for Research and AdvocacyInformational and Education Conferences are also organized, as well as Camp HI-Lite Scholarships, which gives school aged and adolescent kids with Down syndrome a one week outdoor living experience.

In 2001, a national Wal-Mart commercial featuring footage of the Buddy Walk in Colorado Springs ,CO aired, which had a large impact in raising awareness about the Buddy Walk.  Many new Walks were organized as a result of the publicity the national program received.  This year, over 100 Buddy Walk events took place!

In 2002, Actor John C. McGinley, most notable for his roles as Perry Cox in Scrubs, Bob Slydell in Office Space, Sergeant Red O'Neill in Oliver Stone's Platoon and Marv in Stone's Wall Street, joined the NDSS as National Buddy Walk Spokesman.

In 2003, the NDSS hired a National Buddy Walk Coordinator to oversee the direction of the program and assist local organizers.  More than 190 Buddy Walk events took place in 49 states and 5 countries with over 180,000 participants.  Raising more than $2.5 million.

In 2004, nine years after the first Buddy Walk was introduced, they went from 17 Walks to now 210 Buddy Walk events, with over 200,000 participants and raising more than $4.5 million.

In 2005, the NDSS celebrated 10 years of the Buddy Walk!  From 1995-2005 over 1.5 million people participated in he Buddy Walks, and more than 250 Buddy Walk events took place raising more than $5.5 million.

In 2008, the National Buddy Walk Program welcomed it's first regional and national partners: Regal Entertainment Group; Knology; and the American Physical Association, Section on PediatricsThe Buddy Walk public service announcement, staring TV Host Nancy O'Dell, TV Host Meredith Vieira, Actor John C. McGinley, Actor and NDSS Goodwill Ambassador Chris Burke, and Actress Andrea Friedman, was played nationwide at all Regal Cinemas before every movie for two weeks to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month and the National Buddy Walk program. 

In 2009, NDSS held the first Buddy Walk Conference in Columbus, Ohio where Buddy Walk organizers were able to learn from NDSS leadership and share best practices with one another. 
The first Buddy Walk held on a military base in a combat zone took place this year at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan.  2009 was also the year Sophia was born and our first year participating in the Buddy Walk held at Celebration Plaza in Indianapolis, IN.  This year we raised $825 for Down Syndrome Awareness, and had our first team of 15 walkers for the Buddy Walk!

In 2010, Sophia's Stars raised $1,355 for Down Syndrome Indiana and had a total of 24 walkers support us at the Buddy Walk!

In 2011, more than 250 Buddy Walk events took place with over 285,000 participants raising more than $11 million.  Sophia's Stars raised $1,495 for Down Syndrome Indiana this year and had our best year for walking support with 36 friends and family showing up to walk in the Buddy Walk! 

In 2012, the Buddy Walk was ranked in the top 30 fundraising events nationwide for: money raised, number of participants and best series event since 2008 according to Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council Survey results. 
Sophia's Stars raised the most money to date this year, with $1,775 in donations for Down Syndrome Indiana!  We had 26 walkers supporting Sophia in Indianapolis last year for the 15th annual DSI Buddy Walk! 

Our family looks forward to the Buddy Walk every year.  It's a chance for our closest friends and family to come together and support not only Sophia, but all individuals with Down syndrome!  We are once again excited about Down Syndrome Indiana's 16th annual Buddy Walk this year, and Sophia's Stars 5th annual Buddy Walk as a team!  Down Syndrome Indiana's 16th annual Buddy Walk will be held on Saturday, October 12th in downtown Indianapolis starting at the Celebration Plaza with a 2.6 mile walk around the canal.  We would LOVE all the support we could get and welcome anyone to come and walk as a part of our team! 

** For more information on the history of the NDSS Buddy Walk you can visit HERE.  Also, check out my links highlighted above for more info!


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