Fifth annual Buddy Walk aims to shatter donation records, raise awareness

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Oct. 7, 2013 at 5:07 a.m.

They happen all over the world - even in Victoria.

For the past four years, hundreds have marched en masse through Riverside Park on a crisp day in October to raise funds and awareness for Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects one in every 691 babies in the U.S.

Morgan Matula, chairwoman of the walk in Victoria, said that each year the walk has grown. The group hasn't set a goal this year other than to have fun, spread awareness and help out.

"I encourage everyone to come out," she said. "Our goal, really, is to get people to come out and be a part of them."

The Buddy Walk is made up of teams, and each team raises money, of which 7 percent of the proceeds is sent to the National Down Syndrome Society and 93 percent is kept for the league.

Money raised helps fund future walks and information packets for families wanting more information about Down syndrome, Matula said.

The walk also coincides with National Down Syndrome Awareness month.

"A lot of people don't understand it," Matula said about Down syndrome. "They have a fear of the unknown."

Matula's daughter, Lauren, 5, has Down syndrome.

Matula said they still get some stares, not because her daughter has Down syndrome but because Lauren is treated no differently from any other child.

"It's been a fairly easy journey," said Matula, who added her daughter does not have some of the other severe characteristics of Down Syndrome.

Matula said she hopes the league and the walk continue to shatter those stereotypes.

Aside from the 1-mile walk, there is also a 5K, or what the group has called Running with Buddies.

Last year, about 500 people attended the event, and Matula said she hopes this year's event will attract just as many, if not more, people.

"People need to meet them, look them in the face and talk to them," she said. "They'll be spending a day with some very special people."



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