September 15, 2012

Buddy Walk

You may remember back in March that I wrote every day for 21 days to help raise awareness of World Down Syndrome Day. It was awesome seeing the support here and elsewhere on social media as you all spread awareness of the date and your love of Sam and people like him. Well, you may not know it, but October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month here in the US. While I would love to commit to 31 days of writing, it's just not going to happen. The new fall schedules at church, work, preschool, and with therapists are going strong here at Casa Norton and there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Plus, we all know I'd be down to republishing Instagram pictures by the second week.

On October 6th, the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte will be hosting it's annual Buddy Walk at Freedom Park in Charlotte. This is our first time getting to go to a Buddy Walk since we were dealing with Sam's heart surgery last year. You may have noticed the fundraising thermometer over in the sidebar. We've been raising money for our team for a few weeks now and are super excited about the support people have shown.

So, I'll make a deal with you, Internet. You help support Sam's Club (either by clicking that little donate button and pledging a few bucks, or better yet, come down to Freedom Park on the 6th and walk with us!) and I won't subject you to 31 days of incoherent, stream of consciousness posts. Deal??

Go back and reread that second paragraph.
Back to where I said that this was our first time "getting to go" to a Buddy Walk.

Wrong. So wrong.

We may not have been able to go last year, but this isn't my first opportunity to participate in a Buddy Walk. Not by a long shot. The Buddy Walks were organized nationwide back in 1995. There are over 250 walks that will take place this October alone (and you can click on that link to find one near you). While I may not have always lived close to a Walk, we've been living in Charlotte for over 5 years now, and this will be the first one we attend.

I've said it before, but it's the most striking thing to me that by having a child with Down Syndrome, I suddenly see the world differently. I grew up in a small town, in a small school district, where there is only one public high school. We may have gone to different elementary and middle schools, but by the 9th grade, every teenager in town attended the same school. So, eventually, we all got to know another. And with all the kids I went to school with, I can only think of two people that I knew in my entire school district who had a diagnosis that would categorize them as different, and they both had Cerebral Palsy. I'm not saying there were only two, period. I'm just saying I only knew two of their names. Even then, I can't think of a single person that I knew who had Down Syndrome before Samuel came into our lives.

That means I went 29 years with my only experience with Down Syndrome being the kid who played Corky on "Life Goes On." That's how blind I was to this community prior to last summer. I know they were there. I just couldn't see them.
This past weekend, I helped chaperone a whirlwind trip to Disney World for our youth group. I was there for less than 36 hours, but I can tell you that I saw at least 5 people in the Magic Kingdom who had Down Syndrome. Five that I know for sure were carrying around that extra chromosome, and countless others who were dealing with other diagnoses. Four years ago, Travis and I spent 5 days at Disney and I can't recall recognizing a single person who had DS. I'm sure they were there.

I just couldn't see them.

And that's what the Buddy Walk is all about for me. It's great that we help raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Charlotte (which has been an amazing resource and community for us) and the National Down Syndrome Society, but really, I'm just going to have my vision corrected.

Just to see and be seen. To see those in my own community who share this diagnosis with Sam. To revel in his possibilities, and to share the road map of the first year with someone who just joined our special group. To maybe open someone else's eyes who is walking around just like I used to.

Because how in the world will we ever be able to fight for those among us who can't fight for themselves if we don't even see them?

Help me show Charlotte and the country what Down Syndrome looks like. Hope to see you there.

PS. Aren't these pictures gorgeous?? Promise to share our story with Inspiration Through Art soon!

1 comment:

  1. Really gorgeous pictures! Hope you have fun at the Buddy Walk. Ours is coming up in a couple of weeks and I am excited that it'll be the second of an annual tradition for us!