With the 20th year of the Puget Sound Buddy Walk® upon us, we thought we’d touch base with a DSC member who has been there since the beginning. Linda Michael has been on the Buddy Walk committee for many of the past 20 years. Here, she shares her thoughts on the DSC’s biggest event of the year:
When did you originally get involved with the DSC? We moved here from Minnesota in 1991, when Brian was 7 (Brian, who is now 32, has Down syndrome. Linda also has a daughter, two other sons, and 7 grandchildren). At the time, the DSC was a group of local parents who got together in Renton. Eventually we expanded to meeting in the north end as well. As our group grew, we developed a board and pursued non-profit status. I was on the Board of Directors from 1998-2009. Although I retired from the board in 2009, I continued on with the Buddy Walk committee.
When was the Buddy Walk started? The NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) held their first Buddy Walk in 1995. 17 events took place throughout the country that year (this year over 300 events are expected to take place across the nation!).
The DSC hosted the first Puget Sound Buddy Walk in 1997, at the suggestion of Ramona Gillett. The Seattle Center has sponsored the Buddy Walk from the very beginning. About 250 people participated. We served glasses of juice and goldfish crackers, I think. The second year, the Boeing Management Association (BMA) Klown Klub joined us and have been attending ever since. Another part of the Buddy Walk that has continued through the years is the bagpipes leading the walk. Bill Ross, Philip Thelin’s grandfather, led the first walk and his grandson now continues the tradition.
How has the Puget Sound Buddy Walk evolved? This year, we expect 1500+ attendees. We’ll have numerous food trucks and other booths. Garrison Titan (Star Wars characters) and the Rat City Roller Girls join us every year (along with the Klowns). The Buddy Walk has become more than just a walk – it is an afternoon of fun for the whole family!
Previously, the Buddy Walk was used as a way to bring awareness to Down syndrome. (It is held in October because October is Down Syndrome Awareness month.) This year, awareness has changed to acceptance, inclusion, and respect.
In 2000, we offered a raffle to help raise money to put on other DSC events. Now, the Buddy Walk is our biggest fundraiser. The money raised by the Buddy Walk fundraising supports programs like the FIRST CALL OUTREACH PROGRAM which provides support, mentorship, and up-to-date and accurate information to parents who have received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their child. COMMUNITY GROUPS AND EVENTS including DSC Friends, Moms’ Night Out, D.A.D.S. of Puget Sound, the Sweetheart Dance, Megarama Day, and much more! EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES like the Learning Program, bi-annual conferences, and special guest speakers. And ADVOCACY related to policies and issues affecting our community.
What do you enjoy most about serving on the Buddy Walk committee? I have formed great friendships with others on the committee. I feel so blessed to have met and worked with so many wonderful people.
What are your goals for the Buddy Walk going forward? I want to continue reaching out to people who may not know about Down syndrome and get them engaged in the Buddy Walk.
Please join us in saying a big THANK YOU, LINDA! Your years of dedication to the Puget Sound Buddy Walk and the DSC do not go unnoticed. We appreciate you and all of your effort throughout the years. See you at the walk on Sunday, October 2nd!