By: Amy Perry Mercier, Down Syndrome Family Group Member and Mother
William was diagnosed with Down Syndrome before he was born. I found it so helpful as it gave me time to prepare so I wasn’t grieving the child I thought I was going to have, but instead I’d celebrate the birth of child I did have. I reached out to several organizations for information including the BCArc Down Syndrome Family Group. When William was just a couple months old, we went to a summer picnic in Dalton. It’s one of several events the group has throughout the year. I remember the excitement of everyone to meet William. There was no I’m sorry’s, just joy. I remember the feeling of our family belonging. That October, William attended his first Buddy Walk at the age of 6 months old. That initial feeling I had at that first Down Syndrome Family group event was extended from a small group to hundreds and hundreds of people. It was an amazing experience. Our family has gone to every single Buddy Walk since then (though I missed one due to being enormously pregnant with our third child). William has gone to a total of 7 Buddy Walks.
I tell my two other children that the Buddy Walk is William’s day. It’s a day for every person with Down Syndrome. It’s a day for all the people who are there to support and accept our friends and loved ones with Down Syndrome. It’s like a celebration with a very large extended family. It’s overwhelming and reassuring for me to see all the people walking down Main Street in Dalton. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, sometimes I can feel very alone. I think this is because I am just so busy. On top of family life and work, life with William has thus far consisted of countless doctors’ visits, hospital stays and therapies; constantly trying to help William become as independent and healthy as he can be. Seeing the sea of people in Buddy Walk shirts is a reminder that the reality is I am never alone. Our family is a part of a greater community. There are many people who have walked in my shoes, and there are many more to support William on his life’s journey.
The best part about the Buddy Walk is that it is a sea of shirts and smiles. The positivity emitted by everyone is palpable. It makes me so proud to be a part of our community.
“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them.” Antoine de St. Exupery