The inaugural Buddy Walk for Ashe County occurred Saturday, Sept. 21, drawing close to 500 people and raising approximately $14,000 for families with members with Down Syndrome in the High Country.
“The Buddy Walk is an event to promote the inclusion of people with Down Syndrome and to encourage the celebration of people with Down Syndrome,” Lynn Robinson, Buddy Walk organizer said.
Robinson modeled Ashe County’s Buddy Walk off of the nearby Buddy Walk of the Piedmont in Winston-Salem.
“Several families from the Ashe County area attended the Piedmont Buddy Walk last year,” Robinson said. “For our first year, we are very pleased with the participation.”
Robinson said the money raised will help families in the High Country with a member who has Down Syndrome.
“What we’re going to do now with the money is establish an application for families in the High Country,” she said. “(The money) could be used for summer camp experiences, school scholarships, medical needs, whatever expenses the families might have.”
The rain did not keep the people away. Because of a ceremony dedicated to a local child who lost his life, the Buddy Walk decided to start off early, before the rain.
“It looked like we would have a lot of time before the rain came in, which was ultimately the right decision,” Robinson said. “We were able to celebrate the life of Caleb Stopper, a little child from West Jefferson who died last month.”
The ceremony involved releasing balloons, which Robinson said would have been difficult to perform at an indoor venue.
“We were able to do the formal ceremony and plenty of people had time to have fun before the rain interfered.”
Several teams were formed for the Buddy Walk, and the plan is to continue the event annually.
“This is our inaugural (Buddy Walk), but we plan on doing it each year,” Robinson said. “We had huge community support with a lot of sponsors. This is a wonderful community and they pulled together well for us.”