Monday, September 25, 2006

Duluth's fifth annual Down Syndrome Buddy Walk celebrates the normal parts of life.

Jacque and Shawn Alvar of Duluth were "shocked and sad" when they learned their soon-to-be-born child had Down syndrome. "We didn't know anything about it," Jacque Alvar said. But they wondered: What would their son look like? Would he have friends? Would he be mentally retarded?

The Alvars contacted the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota looking for answers, and that's one reason they ended up at Bayfront Park on Saturday, joining more than 1,100 others for Duluth's fifth Buddy Walk. The annual event is part fundraiser, part awareness event for people with Down syndrome, said Laura Plys, co-chairperson of the walk.

And it's all about showing that people with Down syndrome, like her own son, Jonah, are just as loved and just as much a part of the community as anyone, she said.

Plys helped found the Duluth Buddy Walk, where family and friends of people with Down syndrome gather to walk, hang out and have fun with each other. "We want to show the normalcy" of living with Down syndrome, Plys said. "There's not so much to fear."

Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that often causes delays in physical, intellectual and language development, according to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota. Early intervention and therapy can help many people with Down syndrome reach their fullest potential.
Having a child with Down syndrome has been "pretty awesome," Shawn Alvar said. "If our other kids had been this easy, we would have had 10." [....snip] Duluth NewsTribune

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