Buddy Walk & Designer Genes Transitions
“Old and inaccurate descriptors, and the inappropriate use of these descriptors, perpetuate negative stereotypes and reinforce an incredibly powerful attitudinal barrier. And this invisible, but potent, attitudinal barrier is the greatest obstacle facing individuals with disabilities. A change in attitude can change everything.
If educators believed children with disabilities are boys and girls with the potential to learn, who need the same quality of education as their brothers and sisters and who have a future in the adult world of work, we wouldn’t have millions of children being segregated and under-educated in special education classrooms. If employers believed adults with disabilities have (or could learn) valuable job skills, we wouldn’t have an estimated (and shameful) 75 percent unemployment rate of people with disabilities. If merchants perceived people with disabilities as customers with money to spend, we wouldn’t have so many inaccessible stores, theaters, restrooms, and more. If the service system identified people with disabilities as ‘customers,’ instead of ‘clients/consumers/recipients,’ perhaps it would begin to meet a person’s real needs (like inclusion, friendships, etc.), instead of trying to remediate his “problems.” And if individuals with disabilities and family members saw themselves as first-class citizens who can and should be fully included in all areas of life, we might also focus on what’s really important: living a Real Life (like people with disabilities) instead of a Special Life under the authority of others in the system, which often results in the social isolation and physical segregation of the ‘disability welfare state.’”
Words are powerful. And it is our hope that we are able to leverage two words – Inclusion and Respect – as the brand words for our largest community event to drive home the key messages that we want to deliver as the Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas to the broader community. It is not that the word “Buddy” is a bad word, it is that there is an opportunity to communicate so much more to our community as we challenge ourselves to deliver the absolute best for those that we love who have Down syndrome. It is simply not enough for individuals with Down syndrome to be considered “buddies” when they can be considered “classmates”, “teammates”, “associates”, and “peers” through even greater inclusion and respect.
In addition to merits of rallying behind different messages, there are additional reasons supporting the transitions from “Buddy Walk” to “Inclusion Walk” and from “Designer Genes 5K” to “Respect Run 5K”.
- In order for our organization to host a Buddy Event, we must agree to share a portion of the proceeds that we raise with the National Down Syndrome Society organization. While the NDSS does many useful things, we have hit a unique point as an organization where we are still small enough that we need all of the proceeds we can get to continue to fuel our growth of programs and services but yet large enough that we can be more self-sustaining in the development and promotion of our own events. As a Board, we are actively looking at additional programs and services that we want to bring to our area while also continuing to grow our reach in NW Arkansas so that we truly have a connection with all individuals in the area who have Down syndrome.
- There is a new organization called Best Buddies that is also working to bring programs and services to our area. Best Buddies is an organization that will be focused on creating one-on-one matches in an effort to develop friendships between those with and without disabilities. Best Buddies will be a great partner agency for us, but their annual walk event will be billed as the “Best Buddies Friendship Walk” and may create confusion if we were to continue with our walk as the “Buddy Walk”.
- While the Designer Genes 5K is an event that we have spearheaded as a local event in the past, we have gotten feedback that “Designer Genes” was a catchy name but was not a clear connection for others in the broader community.
- Finally, it is important to note that we are not the first Down syndrome organization to split from the Buddy Walk name for our walk event. When members of our local Board have attended the national leadership conference the past two years, we have found that many organizations have shifted to a “Step Out for Down Syndrome” or “Step Up for Down Syndrome” name. Like us, this was a way for them to take control of the branding at a local level and to ensure that they would be able to maximize the amount of fundraising that stays in their respective areas.
The most noticeable changes are simply the name changes from “Buddy Walk” to “Inclusion Walk” and from “Designer Genes 5K” to “Respect Run 5K”. There may be some changes to start times of the walk and run, but these are simply in an attempt to account for the potential chill in the air on October 22nd when we host the events.
Almost everything else. The Inclusion Walk will still be centered around families and friends rallying around individuals with Down syndrome in signs of support both in participation at the walk and in making financial contributions to the organization. The Inclusion Walk and Respect Run 5K will still be held at Arvest Ballpark in October and will still include loads of family fun with music, games, crafts, etc. These events will still be great community events that allow us to bring together NW Arkansas as a whole in a day of inclusion and respect for those with Down syndrome.
The event will still be heavily branded as a DSCNWA event and all materials associated with the event will be accompanied heavily by our organization name and logo. It will be clear that this is an event that we own and that it is one that we are very proud of.
PARTNERSHIP WITH NDSS
While we are choosing to transition our walk event, we remain very interested in a continued partnership with NDSS. We will continue to participate in events at the national level and we will strive to do an even better job of leveraging and making available information and resources that the NDSS provides.
I am always available for additional questions regarding the Buddy Walk transition and any other questions you may have regarding our Down Syndrome Connection organization.
Please feel free to reach out to me at any time via my cell phone at 479.799.1829 or my email at email@example.com.
Former Board President
Down Syndrome Connection
of Northwest Arkansas