• FF: UNC Charlotte hosts Down syndrome awareness buddy walk

    By: Stephanie Maxwell

    Updated:

    Families will come together for an event on Saturday to celebrate loved ones who have Down syndrome. 

    It’s the first time the Buddy Walk event will be held at UNC Charlotte.

    Reporter Stephanie Maxwell spoke with two families, have been leaning on each other, after their children were diagnosed.

    There was an instant connection between Ashley Williams and Melissa Buczek. They're both first-time moms to children with Down syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that can cause developmental delays.

    Buczek didn't learn that her son Will had Down syndrome until he was born.

    “I really didn't know what Down Syndrome meant,” Buczek said.

    Williams found out during her pregnancy with her daughter Ever. 

    Doctors said they are pleased with what they see so far.

    “She's only three months behind, so they are very happy with how she's developing and growing,” Williams said.

    Both moms turned to the Down syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte for help, specifically the Parent First Call program.

    It connected them to a mentor family who could answer all of their questions.

    “'What kind of life can my child have?  Will they be included in school?  Can they possibly get married?  Will they work?' The answers to those questions are 'Yes, yes, and yes,'” Terri Leyton, of the Greater Charlotte Down Syndrome Association said.

    Abe and Kathy Rummage are mentors to both Williams and Buczek, and brought them together for their first meeting.

    “We have a village of people, because ever since we met them, we've just made more and more connections through Kathy and Abe and First Call,” Buczek said.

    Abe and Kathy's son Brodie, 5, is thriving in kindergarten and that gives the moms they mentor hope for their own babies.

    “Look at her, she just, I couldn't ask for anything more,” Williams said of her daughter.  

    The Down Syndrome Association hopes to raise $225,000 this weekend to support its current programs like Parent First Call and to create new ones.

    The Buddy Walk event is Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at UNC Charlotte's Jerry Richardson Stadium.

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