By Elijah Manship
Friends Reaching, Inspiring, and Educating Neighbors about Down Syndrome (FRIENDS) is a nonprofit organization located in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia that aims to support and empower those with Down syndrome.
One of the ways they show that support is through events. FRIENDS hosts a 5k run, a swimming social, a barn dance, a Christmas social event and several social groups. However, the Buddy Walk is their most popular event of the year.
This year the Buddy Walk will be on Sept. 24 and will begin on the intramural field near the CPA on ETSU’s campus. Friends, families and businesses have the opportunity to purchase personalized banners or posters to hold as they line the course and cheer on the participants during the half-mile walk.
The Buddy Walk was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society, and walks are hosted by different organizations across the country. Locally, Misty Adams and her family have been involved with FRIENDS ever since her daughter Zailey was born almost 10 years ago, and she said the Buddy Walk is her family’s most anticipated event.
“At the Buddy Walk you’re surrounded by so many people but you know that everyone is there for the same reason, and it’s mostly just to show love and to celebrate those with Down syndrome,” Adams said. “It’s really awesome to see a lot of the businesses that have, over the years, built that relationship with either the family or the organization.”
That relationship is exactly what FRIENDS is aiming to achieve. According to their website, the organization’s mission is to “enhance the quality of life for people with Down syndrome by promoting our mission to provide members group support and to promote community understanding about people affected by Down syndrome.”
Adams said people who have volunteered in the past have continued to show up as either volunteers or participants for years since starting the Buddy Walk.
“Whether you have a loved one with Down syndrome or not, it’s definitely an event worth going and checking out, because I’m positive no one has ever left there not having been touched and having a good time,” Adams said.
Volunteers and participants can sign up and find more information by visiting the FRIENDS website at dsfriends.net/buddy-walk/.