September 28, 2020

BY RYAN GOODYEAR

The smiles of those who attended the Waterloo Buddy Walk warmed the cold day better than any ray of sunshine ever could.

Despite the cold weather citizens from the tri-cities attended the Waterloo Buddy Walk for the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society Nov. 4, hoping to bring awareness about the condition and the challenges of living with it.

The Buddy Walk, which is held during National Down Syndrome Awareness Week, originally started out in America with only 17 walks.  It now spans most of North America and includes a staggering 400 walks. It plays a huge role in helping raise awareness for those dealing with Down syndrome. Kitchener has been hosting walks for the past 11 consecutive years.

With a solid community built around the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society it’s not surprising that the Buddy Walks have such a strong turnout, especially when you have devoted supporters such as Tracy Kuepfer who has attended the walk for the last nine years.

“I just really enjoy being able to see my daughter dancing, having a good time and spending time with other children, who, like her, also have Down syndrome.”

Those in attendance gathered inside the Stanley Park Community Centre to come together as a community, donate money and listen to speakers including, those involved in running the event, politicians such as MP Stephen Woodworh, Mayor Carl Zehr and a handful of others. Despite the speakers being geared more toward adults, the whole event was family-oriented with clowns doing face painting and balloon tying, music and the Buddy Choir. After the walk well-known children’s entertainer, Eric Traplin, put on a show for the kids.

Proceeds from the three-kilometre walk went to the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society according to Jane Baker, a co-ordinator of the event.

“Most of the money stays with our group, the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society, and it goes towards our bursary programs which include speech, music, physio-therapy and occupation therapy. It also goes toward some of the social programs we run such as our picnic, Christmas party and weekend social clubs for the older kids. The other portion goes to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society to pay for public awareness and advocation activities,” she said.