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Oct. 2, 2015: Buddy Walk raises awareness and funds for Down syndrome, by Shella Thoman

Shella Thoman
Shella Thoman

Our son Isaac was born in 2007. A week after his birth we were told he had Down syndrome and in the next few weeks Beth Bergstrom, co-founder of the North Central Kansas Down Syndrome Society, came by to introduce herself and welcome us to be a part of the NCKDSS.

By the end of the summer I was attending meetings for the fourth annual Buddy Walk. I don’t remember how many walkers we had that year but it was fewer than 200 with just four individuals with Down syndrome. This weekend we’ll be hosting the 12th Annual Buddy Walk with more than 950 walkers registered to take part and 35 individuals with Down syndrome confirmed to attend.

The NCKDSS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides support for individuals with Down syndrome, their families, friends, educators and professionals who share in their lives. We consider our coverage area to be 14 North Central Kansas counties — Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa, Republic, Russell, Saline Smith and Washington — although we have families beyond that area, too. Currently we support more than 60 families.

In the eight-plus years I’ve been involved with the organization, events we’ve hosted have included our Annual Buddy Walk, Racing for Down Syndrome Awareness at the Salina Speedway, an annual World Down Syndrome Day celebration, a Summer BBQ and Swim Party at the Beloit Park, Easter Egg Hunts at Rock City, holiday parties with a visit from Santa, Batting for Down Syndrome Awareness Ball tournaments in Palmer and Clay Center and educational workshops. Several of our families have also hosted a variety of awareness events.

We would not be able to do these events without the assistance from volunteers.

The Future Business Leaders of America group at Clifton-Clyde High School has been involved in our Buddy Walk for more than 10 years.

Each year, as part of the celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness month in October, annual Buddy Walks are held around the nation touching thousands of lives. When it began in 1995, there were walks in 17 cities. This year, there are more than 250 Buddy Walks scheduled, with an estimated 325,000 people expected to participate.

These walks are to raise funds and public awareness, enhance acceptance and support families or individuals with Down syndrome.

The NCKDSS Buddy Walk will be held this Sunday (Oct. 4) at the Clyde City Park.

Participants include, but are not limited to, people with Down syndrome, their families, friends, teachers, coworkers and other supporters. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Participants may receive a 12th Annual Buddy Walk shirt with their registration.

On-site registration and activities begin at 2 p.m., followed by introductions of our Stars for the Day at 4 p.m., then the walk and a whole-hog barbecue meal. There will also be multiple activities and games throughout the afternoon.

This one-mile awareness walk is our main fundraiser each year.

The NCKDSS uses the funds to pay for a variety of events for families to connect; to provide scholarships for parents, families and educators to attend local and national educational conferences; and to fund our Medical, Educational & Family Grant programs.

If you are interested in attending our Buddy Walk, you can register online at (click on the Online Forms button on the right side of the page). Or just browse the site to learn more about Down syndrome and our organization.

If you would like more information, you can reach me at or 785/275-1777.

We hope you will consider attending this incredible event.


Shella Thoman is a director with the North Central Kansas Down Syndrome Society.



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