SOUTH PLAINFIELD – NJ – Residents of South Plainfield and communities throughout central New Jersey will come together on Saturday, Oct. 6 for the 15th Annual Buddy Walk of South Plainfield. 

The rain or shine event will take place at Putnam Park. In addition to the walk, the family-friendly 2018 South Plainfield Buddy Walk will feature something for everyone, including but not limited to, raffles, character, activities for children, music, and food from Outback Steakhouse. Individual walkers and teams are welcome. 

“The annual event serves a way to not only to promote awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome but to also raise money for research and education programs,” said South Plainfield resident Michele Both who, along with her husband Keith, are the organizers of the annual walk. 

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“This event is important to me because it provides an opportunity for families to meet others who are also on this journey. Sometimes taking the first step is scary but it gives families the chance to see that they are not alone,” Both said. 

The South Plainfield mother of four understands first hand how it feels and what is like to raise a child with Down syndrome. In 2003, her second son, Kyle, was only a day old when doctors told her they wanted to test for mongoloid/Down syndrome. “I did not know what to think and I felt completely sacred and alone. I had to call my husband and tell him the news,” Both said. 

That October, the Boths attended their first Buddy Walk and, the following year, decided to bring the awareness fundraiser to their community. Over 300 participants showed up to the first South Plainfield Buddy Walk 2004 and, in the years since, the numbers have continued to grow; last year’s Buddy Walk had over 600 participants and raised over $40,000.00. 

Proceeds from the 2018 walk will, as in previous years, be donated to the National Down's Syndrome Society (NDSS), Central NJ Down Syndrome Parent Advocacy Group, Network 21 and the Lumind Foundation. Monies raised will also go to creating packets/gift baskets for new parents of children with Down syndrome. The gift baskets dropped off at the hospital and many parents have given their OB/GYN information about the support group so that they can pass it along to expectant parents. 

In addition to walkers and teams, sponsorships and donations of raffle items are needed to make the 2018 Buddy Walk of South Plainfield a success. The following sponsorships are available: Bronze  – donation of $25 and up); Silver - services donated for the walk (i.e. food, tent rentals, printing or raffle items); Gold – donation of $100 and up; Platinum – donation of $250 and up; and Diamond – donation of $500 and up. The Buddy Walk of South Plainfield is a 501(c)(3) corporation and all donations are tax deductible.  

Pre-registration for the 15th Annual Buddy Walk of South Plainfield is available online now through 5 p.m. Sept. 28; day-of registration will take place at Putnam Park on Oct. 6, beginning at 11:30 a.m. with the walk kicking off at 1 p.m. Registration is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 13. Participants may register the day of the event, however, lunch and T-shirts are guaranteed for those for pre-register. Additionally, participants are welcome to bring pop up tents, tables or chairs and the park also features a playground area and bathrooms. 

According to Both, events like the Buddy Walk help move past the stigmas that often comes when one thinks of someone with Down syndrome. “To often, someone with Down syndrome is prejudged because they look a little different and we don't want people to judge any of them by their outer appearances or because they act a little different,” she said. “The Buddy Walk gives people the opportunity to see them for who they really are and to see that these individuals are just like us.”

For additional information or to register visit www.buddywalkofsouthplainfield.com; email bwofsouthplainfield@hotmail.com; or call Michele Both at (908) 531-5100.

About the Buddy Walk

The Buddy Walk was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which is held annually in October. Over the years, the number of Buddy Walk’s has grown significantly from just 17 walks the first year to more than 250 worldwide in 2018. Last year, 330,00 people participated in a Buddy Walk and, since 1995, more than $14.2 million has been raised for local programs and services as well as the national advocacy initiatives that benefit all individuals with Down syndrome has been raised. Additional info is available from the National Down Syndrome Society at https://www.ndss.org/play/national-buddy-walk-program