Sometimes in life, I just pinch myself, as I stumble upon something so serendipitous, so in the right place at the right time Forrest Gump-esque, that I just can’t believe I’m there. Such was the case two Saturday mornings ago, when this Savannah girl found herself all alone with her camera in Times Square. I had flown into New York City the afternoon before with one of my BFF’s to celebrate my birthday. (Yes – I am still milking the BIG 5-0 almost one month later :-))
The day before we left for New York I was checking the National Down Syndrome Society website for something unrelated and found out that the New York City Buddy Walk was that weekend! The website also invited folks out to Times Square before the Buddy Walk to view the annual NDSS video featuring amazing pictures of children and adults with Down syndrome. So while my BFF slept in, I hoofed it to Times Square for the 10:15 unveiling of this year’s video. Every year, a few thousand pictures are submitted, but only two hundred are chosen. Imagine the thrill of the families who gathered to watch their child on one of the biggest screens in one of the most famous corners of the world! They came from all around the country, this group of parents and children brought together by excitement, pride and an extra chromosome. When the video started rolling, a rolling wave of applause and laughter began, as each family looked up to see their star. The video is not only a visual love letter to children and adults with Down syndrome, but also a gentle reminder to society at large that people with Down syndrome are unique individuals. The diversity of the pictures was inspiring. Young, old, black, white, students, workers, friends, athletes, musicians, beloved family members. As I looked up on the screen, I thought, “Jonathan – I love your peeps!” You can check out this year’s NDSS video at www.ndss.org.
From Times Square, a few hundred of us boarded awaiting buses to head up to Central Park for the NYC Buddy Walk. (Thank you, Becky Switalski of NDSS for getting me on the bus. Becky is the NDSS National Buddy Walk Director and has been a huge help in getting our Buddy Walk off the ground in Savannah. )
My BFF met me at the park and we both started clicking our cameras, taking it all in. As someone who has been involved in two different local Buddy Walks for the past seven years, it was great to be in the Big Apple, where it all began in 1996. The opening ceremony was inspiring, with an amazing young dancer with Down syndrome kicking things off and pro snow boarder Kevin Pearce and his brother David addressing the crowd. You may remember Pearce’s story from the Olympics. Pearce, one of the United States’ greatest snowboarding hopefuls, was unable to compete because of a severe head injury suffered before the Olympics. He says his younger brother, David, who has Down syndrome, has been instrumental in his recovery.
Actor/musician and NDSS board member Chris Burke was also there, introducing a high school girl who is an NDSS ambassador this year. She delivered a great speech.
My BFF snapped a picture of Burke and me along the walk route. Chris said he remembered meeting me at the National Down Syndrome Congress in Orlando in July and that he enjoyed “Deedah” very much. Thanks, Chris!
I was also happy to meet Pam Sandonato from NDSS, who has also been very helpful to the folks in Savannah who started the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk five years ago. A lot of time, energy and passion has gone into the country’s now 275 :-)! Buddy Walks. As a mom, I’ll always be grateful for the folks in NYC who got it going.
And as a birthday girl, I’ll always be grateful that the one weekend we chose for our Big Apple girlfriends getaway, was THIS weekend – the weekend set aside each year to celebrate and honor our loved ones with Down syndrome. TALK ABOUT ICING ON THE CAKE!
And what’s icing without a present. Leave a comment and we’ll choose one at random and send a Deedah DVD. Sappy, witty, kind or just say hi; we want to hear from you.