By Cassidy Pate, News Editor
A large assembly of Central Texans took to Heritage Park on Sunday to celebrate the 24th Annual “Downs But Not Out” Walk for Special Needs Awareness. Gold shirts were sported, games were played, a one-mile walk was conducted, barbecue was eaten, and smiles were placed on the faces of those in attendance.
100 percent of the funds raised from the walk will be used to organize next year’s event.
Gary Knight has served as the Director of the “Downs But Not Out” Walk for five years but has attended the event since its beginning in 1995 to support his brother who had down syndrome. From that first year to now, Knight said the walk has expanded from a handful of people to about 600 people coming together on behalf of their relatives and friends with down syndrome.
“And so, this got started 24 years ago as a potluck lunch, where a couple of families walked the perimeter of this, the park, and then we said, ‘let’s do it again next year and the next year,’” Knight said.
Events like these have proven to be beneficial to not only those with the disorder but those close to them, which is something Knight has witnessed firsthand.
“My favorite part about this is the fellowship; seeing and meeting new families and new babies who have come for the first time not knowing what to expect and being able to connect them with other families that have gone through that part of their life, so it gives them the opportunity to make that connection and really feel a bit better about what they have in store,” Knight said.
Knight added that raising, being related to or being friends with a person with down syndrome takes a special kind of person.
“I always tell people that one out of every 700 babies in the United States are born with down syndrome, and so you’d think that for each one of those one God picked a very special family to select,” Knight said. “That God has selected those families knowing that they have what is necessary.”
With that, he advised those just beginning their journey with down syndrome to get involved and learn as you go rather than learn about it first.
Beverly and Mark Denton traveled from West to support their grandson who has down syndrome. This was the first year their family has participated in the walk, but Beverly said they will definitely be back next year.
“It’s great to see so many people come together and to see kids with down syndrome and talk to people and see what type of experiences they’ve had and problems that they’ve had; it’s just really great,” Beverly said. “This is the first activity we’ve seen or really had any contact with, you know, other kids with down syndrome.”
Similarly, Mark had only good things to say about the event.
“Oh, it’s just awesome to come out here for our grandson and let him see what life’s all about; I mean it’s really something,” Mark said.