The Coastal Star

Pay it Forward: Buddy Walkers put best feet forward for Down syndrome

Andrew Chea, 17, plans to participate in the Buddy Walk with his brother, Nicholas, 9, and their father, Thomas Chea. More than 2,000 are expected to take part. Photo provided

By Amy Woods
    
The co-chairwoman of the 23rd-annual Buddy Walk has seen the event grow from a grassroots gathering of Gold Coast Down Syndrome supporters to an energetic event that draws upward of 2,000 from around the county.
    Daniela Chea, whose 17-year-old son, Andrew, has the disorder, said the walk has been a part of his life since he was a toddler.
    “He definitely knows that it’s for him and for people like him,” Chea said. “When I say, ‘You have to go to bed early because the Buddy Walk’s tomorrow,’ it’s no problem. He looks forward to it.”
    Chea became involved with the organization soon after moving to Boca Raton when Andrew was 2½. She volunteered as an outreach ambassador, going to churches and schools and recruiting participants.
She then took charge of refreshments — a big job in that the walk includes both a continental breakfast and a barbecue lunch.
    Now, she heads the whole thing.
    “I can’t miss it,” she said. “It is almost as important as my son’s birthday to me.”
    The walk is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 15 at John Prince Park in Lake Worth. The family-fun festival features a 1-mile walk and activities that include bounce houses, a dunk tank, face painting, a petting zoo, pony rides, a rock wall and youth games.
    There also will be dancing and entertainment, and a raffle and a silent auction.
    Princesses and superheroes will greet the little ones.
    “It’s just a very welcoming, warm walk,” Chea said. “The kids love it because they’re having a lot of fun and they’re supporting people with Down syndrome.”
    Proceeds benefit the nonprofit’s advocacy, education and social programs while promoting the abilities of those with Down syndrome.
    “A lot of people from the community support this walk,” executive director Anne Dichele said. “I have to say, really, the feedback is wonderful. It’s a pretty large walk, but when you come there, it’s like a cozy day. Even if you didn’t know a soul, you would feel immediately at home.”

If You Go
What: Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization’s Buddy Walk
When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 15
Where: John Prince Park, 4759 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth
Cost: $20
Information: Call 752-3383 or visit www.gcdso.donordrive.com.

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