Keagan Burkhart, left, receives a hug from Haylee McCreary during the eight annual Southeast New Mexico Buddy Walk, Saturday, at the Spring River Park & Zoo. Mark Wilson Photo
The Spring River Park & Zoo was the place to be early Saturday morning at the eighth annual Buddy Walk.
The sounds of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling” could be heard all the way across the street as the day kicked off with aerobic-style exercise to high-energy music.
Many could be seen milling about, donning apparel signifying which of the nearly 20 teams they were supporting that day.
After the national anthem and entertainment from the Goddard High cheerleaders, a drum roll took place, and the walkers took off. During their tour around the zoo, the band Disfunktion kept the crowd energized and moving with live music.
In addition to the actual walk, Home Depot, Farmers Insurance Group and ENMU-R, among others, had booths set up with activities and information.
The Roswell Fire Department had an obstacle course set up that allowed kids to get just a taste of what life as a firefighter was like. The course had a dummy for them to rescue, ropes to climb and a hose to aim at a fake fire.
About 600 people participated in the walk. Parker’s Pace Setters raised the most money on the day, while Addy’s Angel’s had the largest team at the event.
Teresa McCreary, president of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico, said the involvement of the community really helped make the day’s event as great as it was.
“We had more volunteers. We had a bigger committee that planned, and everybody just took charge,” she said. “So many people giving a hand made it so much bigger and better.”
She was part of the Keaganators who had about 60 people on its team. She added that her son and team captain, Keagan, was enjoying himself and would continue to do so the remainder of the day.
“It is amazing, we are so excited, we couldn’t even imagine this many people,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather’s great, the support’s great, all the vendors are out here, and people have a lot of stuff to do.”
Karolyn Pond and her granddaughter Addy Coleman were a part of Addy’s Angels and are no strangers to Buddy Walk. She said this was their seventh Buddy Walk, and they go to the national convention every year. She estimated that more than 70 walkers were on their team this year, and the camaraderie of the event is what keeps them coming back.
“It’s like a giant family,” she said. “We have people from Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Artesia, and even El Paso. We meet people from all over and they come every year. … It’s a wonderful, giant family.”