Families are getting ready to raise money and awareness for those with a certain genetic disorder. The 16th annual Buddy Walk is this Saturday at DMACC in Ankeny.
The goal is to raise thousands of dollars so a group can continue providing free educational activities for kids and adults with Down syndrome, including a new program.
All you want to do is smile, when you see Carsten Christofferson. He says, "I'm seven." He's in first grade, and he likes school. He says, “I have fun,” when he’s asked about school. He goes on to say. “I have P.E. and eat hotdogs."
The P.E. loving, hot dog eating student has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. Mom Megan Christofferson says, "He is just a magnet for people. He loves being around people. It's impossible to be in a bad mood when you're with Carsten. He knows how to make you smile, make you feel loved. And, he's just an amazing soul."
Christofferson says she didn't know much about the genetic disorder before Carsten was born. But, she quickly learned, becoming an advocate in the central Iowa community. She says, “I started GiGi's Playhouse (Des Moines) about three and a half years ago now. And, Carsten has been able to benefit from GiGi's Playhouse free educational programing."
GiGi's Playhouse provides advocacy and free reading and math programs for 300 central Iowa families that have children or adults with Down syndrome. Christofferson says, "So, we come once a week, and he does individual tutoring sessions. And, it's really helped him in the school setting to excel and succeed."
Community members can help support GiGi's Playhouse Des Moines at the 16th annual Buddy Walk. It's Saturday, August 24th. Organizers hope to raise $40,000.
Group Secretary Andie Kreutz says, "We will put that towards our math, our literacy and hopefully soon a handwriting program as well. As well as all the other free programs we offer."
Organizers also want to raise awareness. Christofferson says, "The more people who understand individuals with Down syndrome's gifts and the perspective they bring to this world, the more acceptance will happen in the community and the better we all will be."
The buddy walk is at DMACC in Ankeny. Registration starts at 8 a.m. The 5K run starts at 9, and the Buddy Walk starts at 10. Click here to register.