The Official Portland Metro & SW Washington Buddy Walk

Buddy Walk 2013: It Was a Dark & Stormy Walk

written by Abby Braithwaite

Buddy Walk 2013 was a stormy one, with wild winds and rains and plenty that could have gone wrong. But thanks to an incredible amount of good will and creativity, it will go down in memory as a day of community in its truest and deepest sense. From the strength and grace of Buddy Walk Chair Angela Frome and vice-Chair Michelle Wallace to the helpfulness of Shawni Sullivan and her crew at the Rose Garden, from the hearty families who joined us to the friends who supported us from afar, from the incredible volunteers who went above and beyond to the sponsors and donors who made the day possible – everyone stepped up to make our annual day of pride and celebration an incredible success.

“With all the people who jumped in to help, it felt very seamless to change venues with only an hour and a half notice,” remarked Angela Frome.

Not being much of a crowd person, I have sometimes been a little bit uncomfortable at Buddy Walk. But the past 7 years have been a journey into community, from our first walk in 2006, when Adara was just 3 months old and we knew two people, to this year, when I barely saw the kid as she found her friends in the crowd, romped on the bouncy castle, and apprenticed with Olive Rootbeer, the veteran Buddy Walk balloon lady.

Little fills me up more than community, and I couldn't stop smiling from my vantage point at the resource table as I chatted with new families and old friends, and watched the crowd move through the Memorial Coliseum. I loved watching the teams distribute shirts to aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, classmates and neighbors. I loved watching first-time walkers and volunteers soak up the energy and vitality of the community. I loved seeing our veteran performers taking their places in the flow of the day, and watching the faces of young parents while speakers Eliza Schaff and Jacob Lattanzi inspired us all with dreams of full, rich futures for our children.

2013 Buddy Walk Self Advocate Speakers

Eliza Schaaf

Hi. My name is Eliza Schaaf and I am excited to be here at the Buddy Walk! I live in Ashland, Oregon with my family and 3 cats. I have two younger brothers - Isaac who is a sophomore at University of Washington and Wilder who is a Junior at Middlebury College in Vermont. And then there’s me, the oldest, and I am proud to say -- I am now a College GRADUATE!!!

In case you don’t know I have Down syndrome. In some ways it makes me different than other people which I think is interesting. In a lot of ways I am the same as you - I like who I am and I like learning with my friends. I consider myself funny, smart, creative in art and friendly.

I have never thought of myself as disabled. I am NOT a disability! I am a PERSON. A person who likes to learn.

In 2010, I graduated from Ashland High School with my brother Wilder. Oh yeah! Like my brother and many of my friends, I wanted to continue my education and chose Southern Oregon University to be my college. I enrolled as a non-admitted student and took 1 class - Introduction to Ceramics - because I wanted to learn new techniques. I worked hard on all my projects. I LOVED my ceramics class!

After 13 classes and with 5 classes left, I got a letter saying I couldn't be there anymore. I was shocked and so were all 19 of my classmates. The students at SOU wanted me there, but the administration wouldn't let me. WHY NOT? I understand that I am different. But EVERYBODY is different. I am still aggravated about that. For crying out loud, I just wanted to learn with people my own age!

So… that’s what I set out to do. Over the last two and a half years many GOOD things have happened.

One cool thing was having a documentary called Hold My Hand made about me. Ruby, a film student at Chapman University and an Ashland High graduate, heard about what happened to me and came up to Oregon with James, Bobby and Vivi to do a film project on me. They filmed for 8 days! I thought it was incredible.

I also started speaking at colleges and telling people why I wanted to go to college. One of the best things is I made lots of friends - from Chapman , SOU and other schools. These friends are THE BEST! And they all encouraged me to follow my dreams and go to college.

So…maybe you’re wondering how I finally got in to college? Well, In November 2011, I spoke at the State of the Art Conference in Virginia on post secondary education as a keynote panelist. I heard about Highline Community College through Julie Jine and Jenni Sandler. They did a workshop about Highline and that got me interested in it. I was so excited when I got accepted to Highline!

Last fall, I moved to Des Moines, Washington and started college. When I first moved to Washington I was REALLY nervous. I thought it was hard at first because everything was new. But in the end it went fine. I enjoyed making friends and taking classes with them.

Some of the classes I took were Learning Styles, Self Advocacy, Career Inventory, newsletter, ceramics, yoga, Zumba ® and watercolor. I made tons of friends in these classes. Keelee, Justion and Stephanie, you’re the BEST!

I also got involved in three clubs. Leadership club met once a month and I learned how to be a better leader. Writing Club was one of my favorites and I hope to continue writing children’s stories. Cooking club was really fun and I learned how to make really good food. That was a good thing, because I had to do all my own cooking in my apartment! I have gotten MUCH better at not burning rice and oatmeal, right mom!

Speaking of apartments, I lived in my own apartment. That was challenging, but I figured it out. I met a girl named Ashleigh walking home from school and she became my roommate. I enjoyed sight seeing in Washington and going to the farmers market. I even had a volunteer job at a cat house. It was pretty cool taking care of a whole house full of nothing but cats!

I think college was a good place for me to go. I learned how to be independent and free. I also learned that having friends is a good thing. Everybody needs one and friends can help you when you need it.

I believe everybody should go to college. It’s a good place to learn, make friends and get skills for a job. If you have kids with Down syndrome, then college would be a good place for them to go to. It’s a place where you can figure out things without your parents.

On June 12, I walked with more than 500 college graduates and got my achieve certificate. Oh yeah!

In closing, I would like to share some advice with all of you.

First…to all my friends who have Down syndrome:
Dream big dreams about your future!
Surround yourself with people who can help you reach your dreams.

To parents:
Hold doors open so that we have the opportunity to learn and grow.
Be our voice while we are young and help us find our own voice.

To classmates, educators, and everyone else:
Expect us to do what you do.
Keep the bar high and don’t underestimate what we can achieve.
We are people too and we are more alike than different.
Help us learn and allow us to teach you!

Thank you so much.

Jacob Lattanzi

Before I tell you about myself and things I like to do; I want to say thank you to my family and friends for all of the love and help they give me.

I grew up in Camas and graduated from Camas High School. I have a nice house in Camas – someday I will get a roommate.

I work at Furuno in Camas. I have worked at Furuno for 8 years. I have a lot of friends at work and I like when I get paid. My Dad helps me manage my money.

I play ping pong with my Dad at lunch every day, sometimes I let him win. I love vacation days. When I have vacation, I like to go to Seaside or walk to downtown Camas.

I have a great team at my work that supports me, Brad, Greg, Francine and Anna my job coach.

I ride the C-Tran bus to work in the morning at 6:00 and I ride the bus home at 3:00 every day.

Things I love to do:

My family and friends give me lots of support, that’s why I can do so many things.

I love to eat New York pizza with my best friend Dean. Watching WWE and eating pizza is even better.

I learned from my trainer Andrea that I have to eat balanced meals, not too much pizza! Andrea meets with me every month, we talk about carbs, protein, how much I weigh and my workout.

Uncle Buck works out at the Club with me. Don’t tell Andrea we go to Red Robin after our workout.

I love to do things with my family and friends. I like to watch Days of our Lives with my sister Allison and UFC fights with my brother Casey. I love to watch TV shows and play PS2 games.

My nephews Austin and Nolan come to my house for dinner every Thursday. My nephew Richie and me get together every Tuesday, Richie is helping me learn how to make dinner by myself.

I love making dinner and going to movies with my Mom.

My best friend Jeremy likes to go to Blazers games with me. My best friend Sam takes me to see WWE at the Rose Garden and comes to my house to watch WWE on TV.

I’m lucky to have a so many best friends.

The History of NWDSA and Buddy Walk

Our first year, a small group of parents chartered a bus and loaded up vans with participants and drove to Salem to walk along with the Willamette Valley Down Syndrome group. There were roughly 100 participants at NWDSA's first walk. The event has since been moved to the Rose Quarter and the number of participants has grown every year, becoming more than just a walk but a celebration and festival.

Many of the attendees are either family members or friends of individuals in our community who have Down syndrome. Our goal is to continue to grow and reach outside our families to celebrate the wonderful gifts of our larger diverse community and provide a place for people to connect and celebrate together.

In addition to the walk around the Rose Garden arena area, we traditionally feature: face painting, games, hula hooping, balloons, gift bags, live music, inspirational speakers, and a silent auction and raffle.

The funds raised from the event go back into the community to support the following activities of the NWDSA:

· Family socials
· Summer Social
· Open Arms Playgroups
· Mini-grants for parents
· Reciprocal Learning Community events
· New Parent Guide
· Spanish translation services
· Public policy and advocacy work
· Our website
· New Parent Outreach and phone support

The goal of the NWDSA is to grow the Buddy Walk and make it better each year - better in the sense of bringing more families and friends together, and providing a focused day of celebration that we can all feel good about. The NWDSA is a group of parents who share a passion for helping their children and families not just cope but thrive. We volunteer our time to help individuals with Down syndrome lead better lives.