Fort Sam Houston Hosts 8th Annual Buddy Walk
October 2, 2008
By Minnie Jones
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --- Taking steps to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome, thousands of adults and children came together to celebrate and walked a mile Sept. 27 at Fort Sam Houston's MacArthur Parade Field to support the annual Buddy Walk.
Saturday's event celebrates National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which begins in October. The celebration is sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio, whose mission is to provide support and education for families and friends of children and adults with Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome, also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about one in every 800 babies.
Though Down Syndrome can't be prevented, it can be detected before a child is born, and there is treatment for health problems that are associated with DS. The Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio is dedicated to providing information and resources to families with children living with this condition.
For the third consecutive year, Fort Sam Houston hosted the Buddy Walk, building on its record for community involvement.
Garrison Commander Col. Mary Garr, who helped open the ceremony, said, "We are thrilled to host this event at Fort Sam Houston for San Antonio and the surrounding communities. We love being a part of San Antonio and helping out wherever we can."
Councilman John Clamp, District 10, attended the event and presented a proclamation from the city of San Antonio to the Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio for their dedication to providing information and support to families and friends of children and adults with Down Syndrome, and promoting acceptance and inclusion through the Buddy Walk for people with this condition.
"I like the fact that the event is held at Fort Sam Houston," said Alena Gutierrez-Berlanga, spouse of Master Sgt. Jesse Berlanga, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C. "They (Fort Sam) have traffic control and provide more freedom for the families."
"There is a lot of open space here," Berlanga added.
This year's Buddy Walk featured individuals with Down Syndrome showcasing their talents from dancing to singing to gymnastics.
The event featured activities for the whole family with inflatables, face painting, and food and refreshments. It also included performances by "Cat Paws" a local television program on PBS station KLRN and "Dreams Fulfilled through Music." The Shavano Speed Trap band provided the musical entertainment.
Terri Blades, executive director, Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio, said the highlight of the walk this year was the amount of people. "We had over 3,000 people at the walk this year and the weather was gorgeous!"
Celebrity Buddy Walker Miss Fiesta Ashley Mayle and her sister Lindsey, who has Down Syndrome, led more than 3,000 participants in brightly colored T-shirts around the BG Johnson track located across from the MacArthur Field on Stanley Road.
"My family and I are excited about participating in the Buddy Walk for the first time. This really gave us the opportunity to meet and socialize with other families of Down Syndrome children," said 1st. Lt. Sherrilynne Cherry, U.S. Army Medical Technology Center, detachment commander. "I was surprised to see the large number of friends and supporters who gave up sleeping in on Saturday morning to be out here cheering and walking with us. My family and I will definitely participate next year."
"In addition to the support that we already provide to families, one of our goals for the association is to expand by adding several new programs, like for instance a Teen Club, an academic tutoring program, a Spanish-speaking newsletter, and eventually Spanish-speaking early childhood meetings," said Blades.
Next year Blades hopes to see more corporate and school teams. The association has eliminated the registration fee, which she hopes will bring more involvement from the community.
(Minnie Jones works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs Office)