Washington Twp, NJ – More than 30 friends of the Iliadis family joined together and walked at the BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome) Buddy Walk on Sunday, in South Jersey at Washington Lake Park. The event was sponsored by the local chapter of the, Bringing Up Down Syndrome Foundation. There are more than 350 chapters across the nation, and this month, is National Down Syndrome awareness month.
Dimitri Iliadis was the center of attention at the tent that feature a banner with his name and photo. It read, Dimitri’s Dream Team. Inside the tent, his parents, Yianni and Fotini of Washington twp (members of St. Thomas Greek Orthodox church, Cherry Hill, NJ), brought a small army of Hellenes and neighbors out to support the program and Dimitri. Following a cup of coffee, they all put on shirts and prepared to march. Across the Park, thousands of families set up tents to honor and bring awareness to their Down Syndrome kids at one of the biggest Buddy Walks in the Nation; administrator Chick Pinto, says. “It get’s bigger and bigger every year. We don’t know if the park will be able to accommodate us in a few more years. We’re even bigger than the one in Central Park, New York City”.
The event is highlighted by the buddy team walk, which is approximately one mile long. Buddy Teams consist of more than 5 individuals who collect pledges in the name of their Buddy or Group. Prizes are awarded for the Buddy Team or Group that has the most walkers, best theme, and the highest pledges collected. Clowns, and Sesame Street members , cheered on the walkers who were then treated to complimentary hot dogs, water and light snacks. Through out the afternoon, games and rides for the kids, along with music was provided for the day, making it a fun afternoon to get to know the kids.
BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome) is a southern New Jersey non-profit organization whose purpose is to help families of children with Down Syndrome by offering a variety of programs and services. They have over 300 families in their organization covering Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden Counties. Their goal is to educate families on how to help their children be self-advocates, while showing the community that all individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities can be valuable, contributing members of society.