22nd annual Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Buddy Walk
Whether you have Down Syndrome, know someone who does, or just want to show your support, you can always volunteer or create a team through the Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk.
The family of Jacob Neumann participated in their first Buddy Walk Saturday in Gulfport. They have been part of the program for two years, but due to COVID, they have only experienced it from a car parade. Maureen Neumann said, “We’re real excited to return to the walk. It’s always such a fun event. I mean, as you can see, there’s so many people, there’s music, people are playing, socializing. They are coming out to raise awareness and awareness brings inclusion in our community and that is what we need.”
Riley McIlwain started the Buddy Walk to help their son, who has Down Syndrome and other individuals like him, feel included and part of something special in the community.
Riley and his wife started the organization 22 years ago. He is pleased organizations have grown to support children with Down Syndrome, giving them plenty of places to join and things to do. “My son is 39-years-old and he brings me joy every day. You won’t believe how great it is to have a Down Syndrome individual in your family. He attends two or three summer camps each year. We have another program in Jackson County called the Dream Program. He has two to three activities every week.”
The Neumann family could not agree more with how much joy Jacob brings to their family and to other people as well. David Neumann said, “He is like a little mayor. He greets everybody. He is always friendly. He is so outgoing. He just really has a big personality and he is young. I mean, he is not three-years-old yet, but you can tell he is going to do big things.”
To sign up for next year’s Buddy Walk go to GCDSS.org.