The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

October 3, 2013

Buddy Walk to support people with down syndrome

BECKLEY — Down with That, a support group for parents of Down syndrome children, is putting together its first Buddy Walk in Beckley Saturday.

“A buddy walk is a walk of advocacy for persons with Down syndrome,” co-founder Lola Rizer said. “It is a support walk and it was actually founded by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995.

“There’s over 300 Buddy Walks nationwide now. Every year it grows. Buddy walks are really cool events because you get to meet these other families and network with them. You form lifelong friendships off of them. They’re amazing.”

Other than the walk, there will also be a variety of activities and speakers at the event.

“We’ve got people from Concord University who are doing a play area,” Rizer said. “Their early-education students are coming. They’re going to have bubbles and Frisbees and hula hoops and all sorts of things like that.

“We’ve also got a photographer who’s going to be there. Funny Bones the Clown will be there and so will Lacey’s Face-painting. We have over 20 baskets that we’ll be raffling off. Starbucks will be there with coffee and beverages. The University of Charleston’s Culinary Department will have all kinds of munchies. Jan-Care and the Beckley Fire Department are going to be there to let kids take tours of ambulances and firetrucks.

“We have everything from Title IX and Birth to Three, but also Down’s Designs. They make tailor-made clothing for persons with Down syndrome. You can’t buy off the rack for people with Down syndrome. They have a slightly different body structure. There’s a just a ton of things. We’re just going to have a full-blown hootenanny.

“We’re doing this walk for Down syndrome and we have a lot of projects on the table as far as what we as a group want to do in southern West Virginia,” Rizer said. “It’s not just for Down syndrome. It could be for anyone who has a child with a disability that ranges from being on the spectrum of autism to being in a wheelchair. We all deal with the same issues like trying to find the shoes that go with the right orthotic. We deal with the cardiac issues, the sensory issues.

“We’re more alike than different. You’ll hear that comment a lot in the Down syndrome community. On every single level, we are more alike than different. We have kids, too, and just like everyone else we want to get them every opportunity to succeed.”

Rizer says one of the speakers at the event is the perfect example of how much a person can accomplish if they have the right support and opportunities.

“Our self-advocate, Josh Miller, is an artist, a self-advocate, has spoken before legislators and has traveled to Washington D.C.,” she said. “There is nothing that this kid can’t do if he puts his mind to it. We think he’s just an amazing person. He lives independently and he’s just one cool kid.

“The thing that’s really neat about a self-advocate is what they do for the little guys, the ones who are school-aged. This is when they see what’s possible. Here is this man with Down syndrome who is living on his own and making his own life and doing what he wants to do.”

Rizer’s daughter was diagnosed with Down’s at birth and is the reason she has fought so hard for Down syndrome advocacy.

“Who can ask for something better for any child, let alone a child who was born with an extra chromosome who a lot of people would not normally have given the time of day? I know it’s not easy. There are some kids who have a multitude of medical problems. We’re going to give these kids and these parents the information that they need. We’re there to support them as a family and as a community.”

Rizer says the Buddy Walk will start “at the big shelter up at the top of New River Park.” Registration opens at 8 a.m. and all activities will be open by 9 a.m. Presentations and speakers will start at 9:30 a.m. and the Buddy Walk will officially begin at 10 a.m. Everyone will have to be packed up by 11 a.m. when rockets will be launched off as part of the Rocket Boys’ Festival.

For more information about Down with That or the Buddy Walk, call Rizer at 304-712-8247 or e-mail her at down21wv@gmail.com.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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