The first ever Buddy Walk for Down syndrome to be held in a combat zone will be happening October 2nd at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan. Inspired by the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk October 3rd in Savannah, soldiers serving over seas that are unable to be present for the Savannah Buddy Walk Festival will be walking in Kabul to raise awareness and funds to support families touched by Down syndrome. All proceeds generated will be directed to Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).
Coordinated by Sergeant Samantha Allen-stationed at Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan with a National Guard Unit out of Macon, Georgia-the event has generated great excitement among the troops, many of whom are walking in honor of a friend, relative, or neighbor that they personally know who has been touched by Down syndrome.
Sergeant Allen has a baby nephew named Jaxson who was recently born with Down syndrome. Five month old Jaxson Hurst-a Savannah resident who lives in Pooler with his family (mom, Shannon, dad, James and two year old brother, Brayden)-is Allen’s inspiration for launching the first ever Buddy Walk in Afghanistan.
According to Allen, she is impressed and encouraged by the resources and acceptance that individual’s with Down syndrome enjoy today, which she realizes is due in large part to the important work of advocacy groups such as the LDSS and the NDSS.
"I also have an Uncle who is 50 that has Down syndrome named Tony," says Allen. "When he was growing up he didn’t have the type of support that those with the condition do today," she says. "He in many eyes is a miracle because he’s lived as long as he has and can do as much as he can. Uncle Tony and my nephew Jaxson are my inspirations for the Buddy Walk here at Camp Phoenix," explains Sergeant Allen.
About the back story:
Shannon and James Hurst (parents of five month old Jaxson Hurst) met in 2006 at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah while serving in the 3rd ID. They fell in love, got married and settled down in Savannah to start a family. When their second child Jaxson was born with Down syndrome in 2009, the Hursts’ immediately reached out to LDSS for support and began learning everything that they could about the condition to ensure that Jaxson would have the proper support to live a fulfilling and healthy life. They quickly learned about the upcoming Buddy Walk in Savannah and decided to get involved.
Shannon Hurst began discussing the Buddy Walk with her sister Samantha Allen. Allen, who is stationed in Afghanistan with the National Guard, was disappointed that she would not be able to join the family in Savannah for the walk. Sergeant Allen decided that she wanted to get involved to raise money and awareness among the troops and organized a Buddy Walk of her own in Afghanistan to honor Jaxson and others with Down syndrome.
About the Camp Phoenix Buddy Walk in Afghanistan:
Kicking off National Down Syndrome Awareness month, the Camp Phoenix Buddy Walk will happen in Kabul on Friday October 2nd at 10 AM. Hundreds of soldiers are signed up for the one mile walk. A stationary buddy walk wall will be posted at the track and soldiers are encouraged to bring a picture of those that they know with Down syndrome in order to honor them as they are celebrated on this day. Many of the soldiers at Camp Phoenix are from the southeast region. The event will be followed by a festival complete with BBQ, music, a dunk tank, pie-in-the-face, and morale events such as volleyball, football and a horseshoe tournament.
About National Down syndrome Awareness Month & NDSS Buddy Walks:
The Buddy Walk, introduced in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)-a national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome-was a major breakthrough in promoting the acceptance and inclusion of all people with the condition.
A nationwide campaign to raise awareness and funds for programs that support families touched by Down syndrome, the Buddy Walk enables NDSS affiliates to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome in their community, which has opened many minds and doors for people with Down syndrome.
The Buddy Walk started with just 17 walks in 1995, and increased over the years, totaling more than 260 walks in 2005. This year in 2009 the NDSS expects over 300 Buddy Walks to occur nationally during the month of October, which is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
About the LDSS Buddy Walk in Savannah:
The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk Festival will be held Saturday, October 3rd in Forsyth Park. The fourth annual Buddy Walk is a one-mile walk in which anyone can participate without special training. Registration begins at 8:00 AM and costs $12 per person (which includes a t-shirt and a meal). The walk kicks off at 10:30 AM, and the festival for the whole family is from 11 AM to 2 PM, offering rides, food, games, music and much more. To register to walk, call (912) 728-8505 or log onto the website at www.ldssga.org.
Young adults and adults with Down syndrome, family members, friends, healthcare professionals, corporate teams, members of the community, and children are encouraged to attend and participate in the event. Bring a wagon, a stroller, and your dog-all are welcome!
Established in 2006, the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) is a non-profit family support group designed to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families. The LDSS is an affiliate of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), a national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
These societies envision and promote a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities. Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community allow people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. http://www.ndss.org
The LDSS now provides outreach to families in eight local counties. Families are encouraged to bring their children with them to meetings, which are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. These gatherings usually include a guest speaker as well as social time for families to meet and share with one another. For more information call John or Candy Bogardus at (912) 728-8505 or visit the website at http://www.ldssga.org.