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Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk returns to Forsyth Park

  • Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 7 in Forsyth Park. (Provided by LDSS)
  • Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 7 in Forsyth Park. (Provided by LDSS)
  • Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 7 in Forsyth Park. (Provided by LDSS)
  • Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 7 in Forsyth Park. (Provided by LDSS)
  • Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk is Oct. 7 in Forsyth Park. (Provided by LDSS)

Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk returns to Forsyth Park

03 Oct 2017

It takes a lot of hard work and expert planning to organize the annual Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk.

“It’s like planning a wedding every year,” says LDSS President Candy Bogardus with a laugh. “This is our 12th year, which is hard to believe.”

This year’s Buddy Walk is set for Oct. 7 at Forsyth Park. It is open to all ages and abilities, and the LDSS encourages those in wheelchairs, carriages and strollers to attend. Pets are also welcome.

Last year, more than 5,000 people participated in the Buddy Walk, which raises awareness and supports local programs that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families.

All sorts of fun

“One of our exciting things this year is we’re going to have the president of the National Down Syndrome Society, Sara Hart Weir, coming from New York to be our grand marshal,” Bogardus says. “We’ve been trying to get her here for some time.”

After the walk, a festival with live entertainment will offer face painting, pumpkin painting, the Boo Boutique, princess and pirate booths, bounce houses, games, music and refreshments.

“Everyone has a wonderful time,” Bogardus says. “We’ll have some new booths this year, including a rock painting booth. We’ll have train rides and blow-up rides.

“His Radio will do music for us and Pooler Karate will do demonstrations,” she says. “Several of our kids participate in the classes there and they are going to be out there, as well.”

The Abilities Unlimited Weightlifters also will appear.

“They are so impressive,” Bogardus says. “We’ll also have the Border Pawtrol to do a Frisbee dog show. They are just amazing.

“The Sun City Cloggers are coming,” she says. “It would not be the Buddy Walk without them. They are super special to us.”

Support along the journey

The LDSS provides programs for families in Savannah and surrounding counties.

“We are by definition a family support group,” Bogardus says. “… Knowing someone is just a phone call or email away is a big help. We meet every fourth Tuesday of every month and at least a fourth of our meetings will have a speaker talk about families who are on our journey.”

Meetings are valuable in building relationships, she adds.

“At our last meeting, we had two brand-new families with brand-new babies. My child is turning 13 on Sunday. We’ve been doing this for 13 years, so hopefully I can pass along what I’ve learned and experienced … We have these other moms we call the veterans, with children who are now 20, 30 and 40 years old.”

Members call upon the veterans with all types of questions.

“Everyone is on the same journey,” Bogardus says. “It’s not necessarily happening the same way, but we’re all on the same journey going to the same place.”

Having a child with Down syndrome is a blessing, Bogardus says.

“We have been gifted with Lainey,” she says. “We feel we were chosen for this journey, and we feel privileged to call her ours.”

The blessing extends to the entire family, Bogardus says.

“We also have twin sons who are 15,” she says. “It has been a wonderful blessing for our sons to grow up in an environment they would otherwise have missed out on. It’s been awesome to watch that dynamic.

“That’s been really special for us,” Bogardus says. “They’ve learned a lot from Lainey about compassion and acceptance.”

Because Lainey’s birthday is Oct. 1, sometimes the Buddy Walk falls on her birthday.

“She thinks the Buddy Walk is like a big birthday party for her,” Bogardus says. “… And October is Down syndrome month.”

Compassionate community

The idea of compassion and acceptance has carried over into the LDSS membership, Bogardus says.

“Our whole goal is acceptance and inclusion in our community,” she says. “These people with different abilities can be in the workplace. We can see what the future holds and how they can make the future better.”

Proceeds from the Buddy Walk will help sponsor such LDSS events as the Night of Champions, Camp Buddy and many more. These events help increase awareness and change perspectives.

“As the Buddy Walk and Night of Champions grow, we reach other places and communities,” Bogardus says. “We’d love to change the world’s perspective, but we’ll start here in our own corner.”

Everyone is welcome at the Buddy Walk.

“We would love for everyone to participate because of the fact we’re all part of the same community,” Bogardus says. “You don’t even have to know a person with Down syndrome to walk with us.

“We are increasing our community awareness, and also building our community,” she says. “If you don’t know someone with Down syndrome, you’re missing out.”

Every year, a Wall of Fame is set up at the Buddy Walk.

“We have more than 400 pictures. If your child has been in the Buddy Walk for 12 years, there will be 12 pictures of your child. People can go and really learn about these kids, teenagers and adults,” she says. “They can really see how much they’ve grown and what they’ve done.”

Participants can register the day of the walk or before by going online to the LDSS website.

“Come and enjoy the Buddy Walk and have fun,” Bogardus says. “You will go away more blessed than when you got there.”


What: Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society’s 12th annual Buddy Walk

When: 10 a.m. Oct. 7

Where: Forsyth Park

Cost: $15 per person; $50 for family of four; includes T-shirt, lunch and family fun festival

Info: 912-728-8505,,