Maureen Mcmullen, Published October 05 2013
Fargo Buddy Walk raises $73,000
By the time an estimated 2,000 participants finished circling Scheels Arena on Saturday, the local Down syndrome awareness group had raised $73,000.
“Our hopes were just blown out of the water,” said Marijo Schwengler, chairwoman of Up With Downs.
For 20 years, the group has advocated the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome and provided support for their families by hosting social events such as pizza parties and group trips to RedHawks baseball games.
Fargo’s first Buddy Walk was one of 250 held Saturday throughout the U.S. as part of a national awareness campaign by the National Down Syndrome Society.
Such events help combat the many public misconceptions about the genetic disorder, said Schwengler, whose 19-month-old son, David, has Down syndrome.
“It’s not a disease; it’s a chromosomal abnormality,” she said. “They have a lot of capabilities; they can do a lot of great things with love and support from their families.”
Each of the 52 “All Stars” honored at the walk was supported by a team of friends and family who walked three laps around the arena to signify the “tri” in Trisomy 21 – the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
The $73,000 was donated through fundraising efforts by participants such as Alex Sullivan, 7.
A Buddy Walk All-Star, “Coach” Alex raised $1,000 by organizing a Pizza Ranch fundraiser night and selling RedHawks wristbands at his school.
Dressed in full RedHawks regalia, Alex led his team, Go RedHawks!, made up of about 15 friends and family members.
“We don’t have a huge team, but we had a huge support team raising money,” said Alex’s mother, Jaci Sullivan.
Of the proceeds raised, 93 percent will stay in Fargo-Moorhead with Up With Downs.
The group hopes to use the money to open a Fargo branch of GiGi’s Playhouse, a social and educational center for people with Down syndrome.
The remaining 7 percent goes to the National Down Syndrome Society.
But beyond raising money, the walk helped show that people with Down syndrome lead fun, healthy lives, said Heidi Bloedow, whose 3-year-old daughter was supported by her team, Aubrey’s Angels.
“It shows the community that so many people love and respect people with Down syndrome,” Bloedow said. “It shows parents and family and friends how much we love and admire these people in our lives.”