FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Grey skies and rainy weather finally gave way to a beautiful the morning of Sept. 26 for Family, friends and community supporters, who congregated on MacArthur Parade Field at Fort Sam Houston to walk for awareness at the ninth annual Down syndrome Buddy Walk.

To further strengthen ties between the local community and military members under the Army Community Covenant developed to improve Soldiers' and their Families quality of life, Fort Sam Houston opened its doors to more than 4,000, who walked the one-mile loop at the BG Johnson track to bring awareness and acceptance to Down syndrome.

Retired Army Maj. Jeffrey Green, who has a child with Down syndrome, has attended all three Buddy Walk events at Fort Sam, said that each year the event gets bigger. "What I liked best about the event is the interaction with other people with the same disabilities and there are always plenty of things to do."

Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a chromosomal disorder caused by an error in cell division that results in the presence of an additional third chromosome 21 or "Trisomy 21." Down syndrome affects people of all races and economic levels, and it affects about one in every 800 babies. No one knows for certain why DS occurs and there is no way to prevent the error. However, early intervention can help many people with DS live productive lives well into adulthood.

"I am just overwhelmed with emotion to know that so many people care about what the Down Syndrome Association does to help these children and adults who mean so much to our community, said Terri Blades, executive director from the Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio.

Fort Sam Houston has once again stepped up to show their support of inclusion by allowing us to use their facility."

Jack Riccardi, from 550 KTSA Radio, master of ceremonies, opened the event that featured activities for Families to enjoy including inflatables, entertainment by "Cat Paws" a local television program on PBS station KLRN, train rides, face painting and food.

San Antonio native and two-time WBC Super Featherweight World Champion, Jesse James Leija the "Honorary Buddy," led the walk with "buddies" Dakota Carrillo and Alex Hidle, who escorted him through the blue and yellow ballooned archway.

Other supporters at the event were District Judge Philip Kazan, County Court Judge Michael Mery and Miss San Antonio, Frenchellen Gilliam. Retrofit provided musical entrainment.

"Once again, the Down Syndrome Buddy Walk was a tremendous success thanks to the great efforts of the committee, volunteers, the community and the entire Fort Sam Houston staff. The facilities allow us to bring all these Families and friends of children and adults with Down syndrome together to celebrate the lives of these very special people," said Blades.

The Buddy Walk is organized by the San Antonio Down Syndrome Association of San Antonio in conjunction with the National Down Syndrome Society to raise awareness of National Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. Their mission is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. For more information about Down syndrome, visit