Walk raises $170,000 for Down syndrome

By Vanessa Mizell
Monday, October 4, 2010

As energetic kids rode ponies, climbed rocks and played miniature golf, , 20-month-old Daniel Pope slept on the stomach of his caregiver. They were beneath a green tent labeled "Daniel's Dream Team."

"After I gave birth, the doctor informed us about Daniel and I said, 'Okay, we can work with this,' " said his mother, Jill Pope, glancing at him. "There's nothing wrong with him. He just has Down's syndrome."

Daniel's Dream Team was a part of the recent sixth annual Buddy Walk, organized by the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia, a network of parents that supports more than 400 parents of people with Down's syndrome through scholarships, social outreach, education and advocacy.

"This event is for awareness and recognition of Down's syndrome but also to celebrate our children and how wonderful they are," added Pope, who helped organize the event.

More than 1,500 families, friends and supporters did the half-mile walk that circled a portion of Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, kicked off by American Idol contestant Maddy Curtis. Curtis sang the National Anthem with her brother Jonny, who has the disability.

Through donations and registration fees, the organization raised $170,000 tosupport the Learning Program, which educates parents on how to communicate with children with Down's.

Nearly 20 stations offered activities, including a petting zoo, Special Olympics soccer and moon bouncing. A tent with a karaoke stage, labeled "The Downtown Lounge," was set up to appeal to teenagers and adults.

Inside, David Egan, 33, and Erin Thompson, 23, chatted over snacks. Both are advocates, board members and have Down's syndrome.

"The awareness of Down's syndrome is slim throughout the country," said Egan. "I know the world has its own issues but we want to make sure the world knows that just because we have a disability, we're no different from anyone else."

Thompson agreed. "I want people to see me with an ability, who I am, and not my disability."

Sponsors for the event included CVS Caremark, TD Bank, Long & Foster Real Estate, Skill Builders and NT Concepts.

-- Vanessa Mizell

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