WEST JEFFERSON-Nothing but smiles were on display at the fourth annual Buddy Walk of the High Country at Ashe County High School Sept. 10.
Hundreds of walkers, clad in purples, grays, blues and even a few shades of orange, lapped the track in support of local families coping with Down Syndrome. While the groups fell just short of their 2016 fundraising target, event co-organizer Lynn Robinson estimated Saturday the fourth annual event had raised more than 85 percent of its goal.
“I’d estimate we’re somewhere around $13,000 right now,” Robinson said. “We’ve had blue skies and this thing has come off really without any problems. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The first Buddy Walk got off the ground in 1995, as a way to promote inclusion and acceptance of people with Down Syndrome.
Today, more than 250 similar events are held across the country each year but it’s only been in recent years High Country families have had one to call their own.
Ashe County’s effort began in 2012, after event co-organizer Patricia Calloway visited a Piedmont Buddy Walk.
“For years, the Piedmont Buddy Walk was the closest one to this area,” Robinson said in previous interviews. “But Patricia and her family went to the Piedmont walk and just came away thinking it was the greatest thing. They came back all fired up and said we needed to have one here.”
Since 2013, Robinson said the High Country Buddy Walk has raised more than $40,000.
“Most all of that money stays right here in the community,” Robinson said last week. “Down Syndrome represents challenges other people don’t face – things like communication, heart conditions and education sometimes pose extra hurdles – so we’ve placed an emphasis on thing like support therapy, and buying swing sets and recreational stuff to help families out.”
But the events also become a rallying point for families searching for answers following a Down Syndrome diagnosis, Robinson said. Sometimes, she said, it’s enough to know that individuals have gone on to lead happy, fulfilling lives despite their parent’s fears.
“You share stories, you share victories,” Robinson said. “And that support net – that might be the bigger part about Buddy Walk.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164.