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True Community Shines at Annual Buddy Walk in Concord

CONCORD — Many of the participants at the annual Buddy Walk outside the State House in Concord on Sunday wore custom-made T-shirts proclaiming their team names.

Five-year-old Wyatt Ketchell of Hampton Falls was the only person from New Hampshire to be recently featured in Times Square at the National Down Syndrome Society’s annual video presentation.

His family and others have taken part each year since he was born. This fall he started kindergarten.

“This event is really important because it raises awareness for the Down syndrome community here in New Hampshire,” said Wyatt’s mother, Marya Ketchell.

“It gives us a sense of community,” she said. “It raises awareness in the bigger community that people who have Down syndrome are exceptional and can do, and be and achieve anything.”

Other teams included Vienna’s Village, Benjamin’s Bunch, Rosy’s Buds, Connor’s Crew and Miles for Myles, to name a few.

The annual event is put on by the New Hampshire Down Syndrome Association, which has a mission to help all people with Down syndrome live to their fullest potential and enhance their quality of life while bringing about awareness of Down syndrome.

This year’s walk raised $43,000. Some of the programs include dance classes, purchasing iPads and summer camp scholarships.

“The buddy walk is like a holiday for all of our families,” said Kori Karamanoogian of Manchester, who is a board member for the nonprofit.

“We have a lot of new families this year,” added Melissa McCreary-Gaska, treasurer.

“I think having as many people as we do truly shows the support that our community has from New Hampshire,” she said.

Abigail Adams, 23, a celebrity in the Down syndrome community, spoke of the challenges she has overcome in her pursuits to be an actress, athlete and model.

She participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Pro-Bowl halftime show as a cheerleader and was the first woman with Down syndrome to complete a sanctioned sprint triathlon.

Before the crowd of hundreds, she spoke of feeling excluded because of low expectations from teachers and coaches.

“Everyone has obstacles in life,” Adams said. “The key to success is how you respond to those obstacles. I have Down syndrome, but I don’t make any excuses.”

Her three main points: reach high, be confident and help others.

Kelly Wheeler of Nottingham pushed her son, Benjamin, 1½, for the mile or so course through downtown Concord.

“It is amazing,” she said of everyone gathering together to celebrate.

“We’ve felt the love since we were basically pregnant,” Wheeler said of the support from the nonprofit.

Source : Union Leader