Buddy walks encourages Down syndrome awareness
Grace Golden | Contributing WriterBy Grace Golden | 10/07/2014 11:51pm
Male students participate in Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, an event hosted by Alpha Chi Omega, to kickoff Domestive Violence Awareness Month. CW | Lindsey Leonard
Alpha Chi Omega kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness month with their annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, an event in which fraternity men raise money and run around the Quad in high heels.
“This year we also had teams tweet #UA1is2many in order to partner with the White House’s new initiative,” said Amber Ausley, Alpha Chi Omega’s vice president of philanthropy and a junior majoring in international studies.
Another campaign raising awareness, the White House’s #1is2many initiative against domestic violence began in September 2011, but was revitalized in January 2014 by a White House task force focused specifically on students. Their website reports that one in five women identify as victims of sexual assault while in college, a statistic that University of Alabama freshman learn in Haven, the required sexual assault program.
“It is important because it is not just a Tuscaloosa issue. It impacts the state, nation, and other countries,” Ausley said. Although Walk A Mile in Her Shoes supported the national White House initiative, the proceeds were given to a local Tuscaloosa women’s shelter called Turning Point.
“It is an issue that doesn’t just impact women, but men as well, which is really important to remember,” Ausley said.
The National Down Syndrome Society created Buddy Walks to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness month and to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
This year there are five Buddy Walks planned during the month of October for Alabama in Hoover, Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery and Scottsboro. The Hoover Buddy Walk is less than an hour away from Tuscaloosa and is being held on Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.
Beth Gabriel, a sophomore majoring in special education, said she has an older sister with Down syndrome named Alison and enjoys volunteering with the special needs community year-round in Tuscaloosa.
RISE is a preschool in Tuscaloosa that addresses the needs of both typical children and special needs children in the same classroom.
Gabriel said, “I think RISE is a great school because it introduces kids at a young age on how to handle kids with disabilities and vice versa,” Gabriel said. “Both Alison and I went to RISE and we have both actually gone back to volunteer at RISE.”
Gabriel said growing up with Alison has taught her to treat people with disabilities exactly how she would treat a friend.
“That’s all they want, to feel loved. They don’t want to be treated differently because they have a disability. They want to do things not only like ‘normal’ people, but with ‘normal’ people,” she said.
Along with the efforts of Down Syndrome Awareness month, Gabriel said volunteering at RISE allows people to see special needs adults and children for exactly what they are: people.
“They just need a little more help than others,” she said.