Event Raises Money, Awareness; the Fifth Annual Buddy Walk United Parents of Kids with Down Syndrome

Article excerpt

Byline: URVAKSH KARKARIA

Tamika Smith probably doesn't know Robert Fischer. But they have a common bond - each has a child with Down syndrome.

Hundreds of parents like Smith and Fischer descended on Jacksonville Beach on a sun-washed Saturday morning to walk a mile and raise money and awareness about the condition.

Down syndrome, which affects 1 in every 800 babies born, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, and often leads to mental retardation, according to the Nemours Foundation.

About 2,000 people participated at the fifth annual Buddy Walk, hosted by the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville. Organizers hoped to raise about $150,000 from the walk, including through corporate sponsorships and pledges from participants. The money will be used to pay for programs and services, such as speech therapy and computer training.

Elvina Parker was at the Buddy Walk to support her 6-year-old grandson, Jumani.

"I think everybody should be educated on Down syndrome and what it's all about," she said.

Saturday's event shows Down syndrome affects thousands of families from across the community and helps creates a support network, Fischer said.

"What works for one family will work for another family," he said. "What you learn through your trials and tribulations whether it's through the school system or through the community, you can pass that along to other people."

Raising a child with special needs makes one more open and accepting, Fischer said, but also requires greater patience.

It takes longer for a child with Down syndrome to grasp simple tasks, whether it be potty training or motor skills, Fischer said.

Tamika Smith, who has a 10-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, echoed Fischer's comments.

"As a parent, it's interesting," Smith said. "Her demands are different, they communicate different. So you learn to talk a different language, learn a different language and respect it. …