Seth Dannhein dances with the Goddard Cheer Squad during the 6th annual Buddy Walk for the National Down Syndrome Society, Saturday, at the Spring River Park & Zoo. (Mark Wilson Photo)
As a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome sporting pink plastic glasses and a bright yellow ribbon in her curly blonde hair finished the last stretch of a 1-mile trek through Spring River Park & Zoo, she was greeted by Goddard High School cheerleaders yelling her name and applause from a group of onlookers.
â€œGo, Madison!â€ they cheered. The girlâ€™s grandmother, Becky Neel, who was pushing Madison in a stroller, paused so the group of paparrazzi that formed could snap a picture of her achievement.
â€œShow them your medal,â€ Mom, Lisa Neel, urged later.
Madison and her family from Artesia were just some of the hundreds of people who participated in the 6th annual Buddy Walk Saturday morning to promote awareness and acceptance for those with Down syndrome.
The walk was created in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society, and it first came to Roswell in 2004 via the two local co-founders of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico.
â€œI just think itâ€™s a great organization,â€ Madisonâ€™s grandmother said.
The walk is the biggest fundraiser for the organization, Teresa McCreary, DSFSENM president, said. She noted that Eastern New Mexico Medical Center donated $5,000 and Blue Cross/Blue Shield gave $2,500.
All proceeds go to the foundation which supports local programs in Roswell, including a parent support group, a reading and math education program for children ages 3 through 10 with Down syndrome and the Best Buddies Legacy Fund scholarship.
After the walk, participants decked out in yellow Roswell Buddy Walk T-shirts stayed to enjoy free music by local band Dysfunktion, lunch provided by Cowboy CafÃ©, and inflatable Jolly Jumps, provided by Church on the Move.
Other sponsors were Walmart, that gave away a swing set in a raffle; the Roswell Police and Fire departments, that brought the fire trucks for the kids to play in; and the city of Roswell, that provided the stage and tents in the park.
The Goddard High School cheerleaders came to support the cause and did a cheer in a presentation before the walk, while dancers from The Studio + put on a performance later in the afternoon.
â€œWeâ€™re having a good time,â€ Cassandra Sisneros, who walked with her daughter, Deâ€™ana, to support one of Deâ€™anaâ€™s friends, said.
She added, â€œItâ€™s important for them to know that theyâ€™re part of the community and that they are accepted.â€