Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Soldiers in Afghanistan to hold first Buddy Walk for Down syndrome in a combat zone

From Carriage Trade PR:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The first ever Buddy Walk for Down syndrome to be held in a combat zone will be happening October 2 at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Inspired by the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk October 3 in Savannah, soldiers serving overseas that are unable to be present for the Savannah Buddy Walk Festival will be walking in Kabul to raise awareness and funds to support families touched by Down syndrome. All proceeds generated will be directed to Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society (LDSS) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). (Last year's LDSS Buddy Walk is pictured.)

Coordinated by Sergeant Samantha Allen—stationed at Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan with a National Guard Unit out of Macon, Georgia—the event has generated great excitement among the troops, many of whom are walking in honor of a friend, relative, or neighbor that they personally know who has been touched by Down syndrome.

Sergeant Allen has a baby nephew named Jaxson who was recently born with Down syndrome. Five month old Jaxson Hurst—a Savannah resident who lives in Pooler with his family (mom, Shannon, dad, James and two year old brother, Brayden)—is Allen’s inspiration for launching the first ever Buddy Walk in Afghanistan.

Shannon and James Hurst met in 2006 at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah where they serve in the 3rd ID. They fell in love, got married and settled down in Savannah to start a family. When their second child, Jaxson, was born with Down syndrome in 2009, the Hursts’ immediately reached out to LDSS for support and began learning everything that they could about the condition to ensure that Jaxson would have the proper support to live a fulfilling and healthy life. They quickly learned about the upcoming Buddy Walk in Savannah and decided to get involved.

Shannon Hurst began discussing the Buddy Walk with her sister Samantha Allen. Allen, in Afghanistan, was disappointed that she would not be able to join the family in Savannah for the walk. Sergeant Allen decided that she wanted to get involved to raise money and awareness among the troops and organized a Buddy Walk of her own in Afghanistan to honor Jaxson and others with Down syndrome.

Kicking off National Down Syndrome Awareness month, the Camp Phoenix Buddy Walk will happen in Kabul on Friday October 2 at 10 a.m. Hundreds of soldiers are signed up for the one mile walk. A stationary buddy walk wall will be posted at the track and soldiers are encouraged to bring a picture of those that they know with Down syndrome in order to honor them as they are celebrated on this day. Many of the soldiers at Camp Phoenix are from the southeast region. The event will be followed by a festival complete with BBQ, music, a dunk tank, pie-in-the-face, and morale events such as volleyball, football and a horseshoe tournament.

The Buddy Walk, introduced in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)—a national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome—was a major breakthrough in promoting the acceptance and inclusion of all people with the condition.

A nationwide campaign to raise awareness and funds for programs that support families touched by Down syndrome, the Buddy Walk enables NDSS affiliates to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome in their community, which has opened many minds and doors for people with Down syndrome.

The Buddy Walk started with just 17 walks in 1995, and increased over the years, totaling more than 260 walks in 2005. This year in 2009 the NDSS expects over 300 Buddy Walks to occur nationally during the month of October, which is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.