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History of the Buddy Walk

The Buddy Walk® was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. The Buddy Walk® has grown from 17 walks in 1995 to nearly 300 Walks planned for 2015 worldwide. In 2014, nearly $13 million was raised nationwide to benefit local programs and services, as well as the national advocacy and public awareness initiatives of NDSS that benefit all individuals with Down syndrome. 

In 2014, 252 Buddy Walk® events were held across the country and around the world. More than 315,000 people participated in the Buddy Walk®, collectively raising nearly $13,000,000.
 

Background

In 2005 the Auckland Down Syndrome Association enlisted the services of 4 AUT (Auckland University of Technology) students, in their final year of the Bachelor of Communications Studies degree, majoring in public relations, to help organise the inaugural Buddy Walk.

Every year AUT students get a chance to put in practice what they have learned during the previous three years, through "a working Public Relations Agency", structured and run as near to a business as is possible.

Auckland Down Syndrome Association was very lucky to be chosen by four extremely dedicated young people, Michael Allen, Victoria Blackman, Leah Evans and Shannon Green. Using a manual produced in the USA, the students over a relatively short time frame adapted the concept to New Zealand conditions and produced a most successful professionally run event through posters, flyers, publicity, securing sponsorship, radio station air time, setting out the walk course, to providing a wide range of fundraising and entertainment activities on the day.

Organising this event for Auckland Down Syndrome Association won them the prestigious PRINZ (Public Relations Institute of New Zealand) awards in 2006.

For the next two years the event was organised by part-time and full-time students of the Events Management class of Auckland University of Technology.

The Auckland Down Syndrome Association decided to change the date of the event from October to March so the event could be held around World Down Syndrome Day, which is every year on 21 March. The event was organised with the help of some very dedicated parents. 21 March is a significant day for the Down syndrome community. Down syndrome is also called Trisomy 21 and occurs when a person has a 3rd and extra 21st chromosome. The month and day were chosen to correspond with Trisomy and 21.
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