To be loved and included

Published 5:07 pm Monday, September 25, 2017

Last weekend, the Buddy Walk made its debut in eastern North Carolina.

On Saturday, 25 teams took to the Town Common in Greenville to raise money for Down syndrome. It was a quarter-mile walk and celebration organized by the Eastern North Carolina Down Syndrome Network.

The organization is an affiliate of the Triangle Down Syndrome Network based in Raleigh. It strives to support and empower the parents of children with Down syndrome and the communities that surround them.

The Buddy Walk brought much-needed awareness, support and funds to a disability that affects thousands in the United States. According to the TDSN, 6,000 children are born with Down syndrome every year. The event raised nearly $30,000, and the funds will help bring vital resources to northeastern North Carolina.

Saturday’s Buddy Walk event also promoted acceptance. Individuals with Down syndrome have been increasingly integrated into communities, and that is a huge step in the right direction.

Take for example, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in Wilmington. It is fully staffed with employees who have intellectual and/or development disabilities, such as Down syndrome. A couple striving for the inclusion, value and acceptance of those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities opened the coffee shop in January 2016 to honor their two youngest children who have Down syndrome.

It’s more than a cup of coffee; it’s love, acceptance and respect. It’s changing how people view those individuals.

Closer to home, Beaufort County is already starting to take a cue from Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. Last year the City of Washington debuted an all-inclusive playground at Havens Gardens, which was made possible through a grant from Trillium Health Resources.

Residents should always include those who may seem different at first glance. In reality, those with intellectual and/or development disabilities really are not that different.

These children grow up the same as any other child, just maybe a bit slower. They go to school. They get jobs. They get married. They have a family.

Just because people may look different, doesn’t mean they are. Give them a chance; the result may be surprising.