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Why This Year's Buddy Walk on Washington Was Different

Tue, April 19, 2016 1:54 PM | Deanna Tharpe (Administrator)

I had the pleasure last week of participating in the "National Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk on Washington" event. While it's not my first time to attend (by any stretch), I did notice some distinct differences from my first visit years ago. I think the differences lie in the number of attendees, the self-advocates and the education of the participants. Let me elaborate.

While the number of people coming to advocate on behalf of Down syndrome is always impressive, the number this year was an increase. First of all, I saw many more families with young children. Seeing all these families getting involved early in legislative advocacy is nothing short of a boon for our future. ABLE has passed and while there is still plenty of work to be done to improve the existing law, seeing an increase in attendance was surprising to me. It is an election year, but I just felt that wasn't the underlying reason. I think people in the DS community have seen the power of their presence on Capitol Hill and they want to keep that momentum going.

Oh, the self-advocates! Not only were there many, but they were amazingly involved and professional. While none of them were my offspring or came from my local area, I couldn't help but feel pride when seeing them in the halls of the Congressional office buildings or hearing the stories of their visits. 

Maybe it's just the level of involvement I saw across the board. The advocates I spoke to were knowledgeable about past legislation and about how Hill visits work (even if it was their first time attending). More than that, they asked thoughtful questions about legislation they didn't quite understand. I can't imagine that comes from anything other than training and communications. I suspect the DS-Ambassador program can take a lot of credit for that.

Overall, it felt empowering to be part of such an effort by the community. Hearing the stories of the state efforts, the triumphs of their visits and seeing the long lines of Congressional members waiting to praise our effort made for a great trip.  Watching a rainy morning turn into a beautiful spring afternoon (hmmm...did we do that?) was icing on the cake. Thank you, NDSS, for all you do!

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      I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio

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