Step up for Down Syndrome: Annual walk builds community of families living with the disorder

ORLANDO, Fla. — More than 1,300 people showed up this weekend to help make the 23rd Annual “Step up for Down Syndrome” walk in Orlando the most successful edition ever.

Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida Executive Director Heather Barnes says she was worried about turnout considering participation was down at last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We were a little concerned whether or not folks were going to want to come out,” Barnes said. “I think it had been just so long that this time was the time that everybody decided they wanted to come out today.”

And come out they did, raising $270,000 dollars, breaking their previous record by nearly $50,000.

Thank you to everyone who Stepped Up for Down Syndrome with us last Saturday! We had an incredible turnout with more...

Posted by Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida on Friday, October 22, 2021

Barnes says the funds will be dedicated to supporting the programs offered by the Down Syndrome Association.

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“Everything from programs for children and babies, all the way up to teens and adults,” Barnes said.

The walk was attended by Central Florida’s own Chris Nikic, the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a full Ironman event.

“Families that have just had a child with Down Syndrome, or had a child with Down Syndrome...this was the first opportunity to meet other families that had a child with Down Syndrome,” Barnes said. “So this was the real first opportunity for a lot of them to have friends and family that became part of their new community.”

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Though the walk is over, there will be other opportunities to support this community. Click here to learn more.

Special Olympics Florida has also launched a “Race for Inclusion” campaign featuring a series of events aimed at promoting acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities. It includes a 5K event taking place this Saturday in Orlando. For more information on the Special Olympics Race for Inclusion, click here.

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Joe Kepner

Joe Kepner, WFTV.com

I unloaded the U-Haul in Orlando in 2008, just in time to cover the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.