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Buddy Fest Past, Present, Future

Every fall for the last 23 years, and I have been to every one, the Northwest Down Syndrome Association (NWDSA) has kicked off Down Syndrome Awareness Month with our annual Buddy Fest celebration and walk to promote acceptance and inclusion of all people with Down syndrome. This year, we held our second live virtual event to mark the important day, share the pride of our community, and have some fun. A big thank you to participants, top teams, board, supporters, friends, and the community who worked hard to help us work towards our goal. We enjoyed a live-streamed walk together, a stroll down memory lane, and a beautiful sunny day.

Thinking of years past, I missed standing in the plaza at the Rose Garden just before the sun came up, enjoying a moment of peace and silence, and anticipating the hundreds and hundreds of smiles and beautiful faces that would soon take over the space.

Buddy Fest NW brings together families, friends, self-advocates, educators, professionals, community leaders, and other promoters of a civil and inclusive society for a day of community, fun, and a big, old family reunion. Our festival shines a light on our self-advocate leaders as they share about their journey, dreams, important contributions, and welcome over 2,000 participants from Portland metro and Southwest Washington. Small babies to adults, families and friends, teachers and medical professionals, corporate teams— everyone is welcome to join in on this day celebrating diversity and inclusion.

The day is a big party with a sea of the beautiful color of Buddy Fest shirts, smiles, pride, hugs from new friends and old ones, and a real coming together. When I think back over the years, I reflect on those special moments when a new family comes for the first time and feels they are a part of the community and connected. Buddy Fest holds a special place in my heart, honoring those first steps, celebrations of successful surgeries, recognition of the youngest babies, and those walking in memory of someone they love.

I am looking forward to better days to come, and get excited thinking ahead about future events and all the fun games, bounce castles, raffle/silent auction, food & drink, and entertainment galore! A dance party with our wonderful entertainers is bound to happen, along with hula hoopers, cheerleaders, Star Wars characters and much more to bring joy to the day.

Buddy Fest not only brings together our community with old friends and new, it’s also our biggest fundraiser of the year, supporting the vital work of NWDSA, including a New Parent Guide, new parent outreach and ongoing support; training on child development, assistive technology, state and county programs and more; the Healing Hearts booklet; family socials, Stepping Up Newsletter; and our Resourcefulness Center.

While we wrapped up October’s Down Syndrome Awareness month a month ago, let’s continue every month to keep shining the light on the amazing contributions people with Down Syndrome bring to our communities everyday! We are sure missing you all like crazy and cannot wait to party again in person.

We want to give a big shoutout to Joni Derouchie for production, Abby and Adara for their amazing spirit and funny antics and creativity, and to our wonderful Emcee Kristin Behlings and musician Nick O’Donnell. It was nice to see beautiful faces, connect with old friends and new, and shed a tear of joy or two!

Be well, my friends.

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