Down with NYC

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 :-))

Times Square

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

Show time

Waiting for the video


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.

  • The Buddy Walk warm-up
  • David Pearce holding banner on right side with snowboarder brother Kevin (left)
  • Kevin and David Pearce
  • 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.

  • Chris Burke with Buddy Walk ambassador
  • 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!

  • Chris Burke and Brooke
  • Check out the team banner made of Buddy Walk t-shirts

    Cool shirts

    cutie pie

    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.

    Brooke and Pam Sandonato

    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! :-)

    Linda, Brooke and Roselle (Thanks BFF's!)


    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.

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    20 Responses to Down with NYC

    1. Judy Baker says:

      What a wonderful surprise! My daughter’s photo was in the video this year… the third time!! I have yet to make it to NYC to see the video play in Times Square. Maybe one year it will happen, just she and I for a girl trip. Happy 50th! I’m glad you had a fabulous time.

    2. I can’t believe that you just happened to pick that weekend to go to NYC! That is wonderful! I’m glad that you were able to partake in the festivities!

    3. Aww! New York looked like so much fun!! What a beautiful moment for all of those lovely families to be able to see their beautiful children on the big screen! I had so much fun at our Buddy Walk, there’s just a feeling of togetherness among everyone. Well tell Jonathan we say Hi! from all of us in Toledo, Ohio. <3


    4. Lianna says:

      WOW! New York does it up right!!! What a great set of photos!!!

    5. Kelle Hampton says:

      Oh, the tears started rolling when I saw those pics and thought of how amazing it must have felt for the family members to be standing there in Times Square, brought together by so much love, and to feel it. Thank you for sharing, Brooke. Your husband’s comments always crack me up…and are so insightfu! Thank you to both of you!!!

    6. Amy Bourque says:

      That must have been a very powerful and moving moment–standing in Times Square, surrounded by thousands of people, all connected by one extra little chromosome somewhere in their lives. I hope to make it here someday…and maybe have my guy up on that screen!

    7. Debbie Schmidt Kobernick says:

      Wow, what a wonderful story!!! So glad that you were there to enjoy the walk!!!

    8. Cheri says:

      I loved your comment about the pictures being a “visual love letter”! …and Jonathan, I just love your peeps too! 😉

    9. Pingback: How does this story end?! | Deedah and me

    10. Emily says:

      Jonathan, your peeps are the best! Great photos of your time in NYC!

    11. Laura Keller says:

      Interesting post! And……..great job Deedah! My nephew has Downs and his parents showed it to us. We love it!

    12. Sarah says:

      What an amazing event. I would love to be apart of something so great one day.

    13. Molly says:

      AHHH, I should have found you. I didn’t know you were there.

      I was there, with the Reece’s Rainbow table!

      The buddy walk is the best. I just put up my post on it. Two weeks late. heh.

    14. Our Buddy Walk is in two weeks, and I can’t wait!!! Planning on giving several Deedah DVD’s for Christmas, so winning one would be cool.

    15. Phil says:

      Congratulations Amy. You won the Deedah! Thank you everyone for leaving comments. We love hearing what you have to say.

    16. patti says:

      Oh darn, I missed the contest…I’m going to ask for the dvd for Christmas:) Very cool to see pictures of one of our blog friends (Grady/Team Ski) here…
      Looking forward to following your blog!!

    17. Cole says:

      Nice to meet you and a very happy birthday Brooke! I was going to comment on the same thing that Patti said- it was so fun to see familiar pictures in your pictures of the BW! I need to go watch the whole dvd. Some of those faces look so familiar from the babycenter Ds boards. One of these years our lil family will have to make the trek.

    18. Hey There! I got word that you had Team Ski & Grady pictures posted over here, thanks for posting them, What a great day huh? It was a first time and we were beyond blessed with all the love and support that came out of the day. I can’t wait to watch your family’s documentary. Maybe we will see you next year :)

    19. Paula Tribe says:

      I love reading your blog & the idea for the documentary was fabulous! I have not watched the movie yet, but would love to & wish it was available through the local libraries!

    20. Kristin says:

      Happy birthday Brooke, awesome present :) I am so jealous you not only walked with Chris Burke, but he remembered you! Life GOes On is my alltime favorite show- funny, it was out when I was much younger and childless, and now I have Thomas. I think maybe seeing that show prepared me and let me know things would be okay, even if just in teh deep recesses of my mind

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