by Christine Sirianni
Parent Advocate and President
The Family & Friends Down Syndrome Association of Niagara County Inc.
On a shoestring budget, friends and families will tighten their shoelaces and step out to the community on Saturday, Sept. 10, to help raise positive awareness about Down syndrome in the 15th Buddy Walk of Buffalo Niagara. The Buddy Walk is sponsored by The Family & Friends Down Syndrome Association of Niagara Inc., and is a licensed Buddy Walk event and affiliate organization of The National Down Syndrome Society.
The Buddy walkers promote a message of "Believe to Achieve." People living with Down syndrome can achieve a life of purpose, meaning and success, yet this must still be realized by the greater community. The Down Syndrome Association of Niagara is committed to making this happen.
Children are born with Down syndrome, it is not contagious or a death sentence. In fact, there are ample studies reporting that, given a stimulating and supportive home environment, early intervention, quality education and health care, and actively participating in community activities, most to all individuals born with Down syndrome lead contributing and fulfilling lives as adults.
The Down Syndrome Association of Niagara is comprised of self-advocates and families who share these beliefs and are committed to spreading this message during the Buddy Walk and throughout the year. We walk because we all have an extra reason: We all have a loved one born with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome occurs when a child is born with an extra copy of chromosome No. 21 rather than the usual two. It is the most commonly occurring chromosomal alteration in about one of every 691 live births each year, and accounts for a population of more than 400,000 people in the U.S. today. People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions, many of which are treatable today, therefore improving overall quality of life and life expectancy dramatically from age 25 in 1983 to age 60 today.
Although every person born with Down syndrome experience some degree of cognitive delay in learning, the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each person possesses.
The Buddy Walk of Buffalo Niagara is the only fundraising event The Down Syndrome Association of Niagara coordinates each year. It is part of our mission to collaborate with local service providers and businesses to help share our message, so please join us in The Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival Parade on Sept. 10.
To date, the Down Syndrome Association has engaged in the following activities to promote community-wide education and advocacy in the hope of fostering a greater understanding of people living with Down syndrome and promote awareness on their positive impact on society today: The DSA hosts Web-based seminars created by professionals in the areas of health and education for parents and professionals caring for people with Down syndrome; provides local health care providers and libraries with updated publications and materials on the subject; and, most importantly, a support program for new and expectant parents.
For additional information on how to join the Buddy Walk of Buffalo Niagara on Sept. 10, or just to learn more on the subject matter of Down syndrome, visit www.dsaniagara.org and related resources. You may also contact this author at 870-4904.