Buddy Walk celebrates children with Down syndrome

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Thousands flooded Sawyer Point on Saturday morning for the 12th Annual Buddy Walk benefiting the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.

A gorgeous morning set the scene for more than 10 thousand people to walk a mile in celebration of those born with down syndrome.

"It is a celebration," said Alan Abes, a parent of a child with Down syndrome. "I think what a lot of people don't realize, is that raising a kid with Down syndrome is really just like raising any other kid. We have great times, and bad times, and frustrating times, and encouraging times. And this is really just to celebrate that their kids just like anybody else."

Alan's son Harrison is 22 months old. He's happy, curious and a blessing to parents Alan and Monica.

"We were at Children's, in the ICU, after he was born and we got a card for the Down Syndrome Association," explains Alan. "We called them about a month after we got home and they sent somebody out right away. We talked to them, we saw that it was a great organization and there were a lot of families like ours and we decided to be active right away."

Through the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, Harrison has learned sign language to help communicate with his parents.

"It's a big deal that he can tell us," explains Harrison's mother, Monica. "I mean, he's signing three things at once right now. He's signing banana, and milk, and cracker. And it's a big deal that he can communicate with us and we can communicate with him before he's verbally able to tell us what his wants and needs are."

As the families and programs continue to make strides, it's also a record year for the Buddy Walk.

"We've already raised more money going into this event than ever have in our history, so we're thrilled," said Jim Hudson, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati. "And that fuels over half of our budget throughout the year."

Even though Monica and Alan never planned on being so actively involved in DSAGC, the Buddy Walk is becoming an annual event for the family.

""It looks like an incredible time, with a lot of people and the fundraising so far has been fantastic," said Alan. "I see that there's a booth here for more donations, so it's amazing to see people walk up and donating and it's just a phenomenal event."