Community celebration

Connie Roper dances with her great-niece, Andilyn Brenden, to live music at the conclusion of the 2017 Buddy Walk in Washington Park.

Hundreds of Wyoming residents are gathering in Laramie this weekend to celebrate people with Down syndrome.

The Wyoming Buddy Walk is an 18-year Laramie tradition that includes live music, food, games and more. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. today at the Edgar J. Lewis Bandshell at Washington Park.

Registration is $20 for adults and $10 for youth under 18 and includes a T-shirt. Anyone who registers for the Buddy Walk can also purchase a ticket to the University of Wyoming football game for $15.

Bob Sell, CEO of Ark Regional Services, said the event was designed to bring people together and raise awareness.

“It’s open to everybody in our community, and it’s a celebration of the contributions and the positive impact that people with Down syndrome make in our communities,” he said.

The Buddy Walk, organized by the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association in conjunction with Ark, has a nationwide presence. The Laramie event is the only one that takes place in Wyoming, and it draws people from around the state as well as from neighboring states. Sell said he’s expecting about 500 people to participate.

The morning starts with donuts and coffee, along with carnival games, carnival snacks and prizes. Denver-based 6 Million Dollar Band will provide high-energy covers of ’80s hits.

“They have been really excited to come back, and they put it on their calendar early,” Sell said.

At 10:30 a.m., participants will walk a loop around Washington Park, followed by more music, an appearance by the UW spirit squad and lunch from McAlister’s Deli. Sell said a few hundred people from the Buddy Walk will then head to War Memorial Stadium to catch the 2 p.m. football game against Wofford College.

“It carries that celebration over to that large crowd at the stadium,” he said.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of a full or partial copy of the 21st chromosome, which alters development. People with Down syndrome might have cognitive delays and physical characteristics such as low muscle tone, small stature and an upward slant to the eyes, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.

About 6,000 babies a year are born with Down syndrome each year in the United States.

Proceeds from the Buddy Walk will support a couple projects of the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. The association organizes an annual conference and brings in national experts that’s free for families to attend. Also, the association distributes boxes with informational materials and gifts for parents of newborns with Down syndrome.

“It provides information, but it’s also a way of welcoming this person into the world in a real positive way, which is something we always try to do as an organization,” Sell said.

Sell said the Buddy Walk differed from other fundraising walks because it celebrates a group of people, and proceeds are intended to improve their quality of life. People with Down syndrome make positive contributions in their communities through their jobs, schools and activities when they have the opportunity to do so.

“It takes real active communities to give people those opportunities, and it’s something we should all be doing,” he said.

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