A sea of smiles washed over the Wollongong foreshore yesterday as hundreds of families turned out for this year’s Buddy Walk Illawarra, to promote community acceptance of people with Down syndrome.
Almost 400 people made the return journey from Stuart Park to the Wollongong Lighthouse, many of them wearing trademark blue ‘‘Buddy Walk’’ T-shirts and caps, hoping to brighten the futures of Illawarra children, adults and families touched by the condition.
Event organiser Karyn Ellem, whose five-year-old son, Beau, has Down syndrome, said the walk had been an overwhelming success.
‘‘It’s too early to know how much we’ve raised but we’ve gone over and above my expectations for the day in both funds and support,’’ Mrs Ellem said.
‘‘It has been absolutely overwhelming.’’
The 3km walk, which last took place in 2008, aims to promote acceptance and inclusion of children and adults with the condition in all aspects of community life.
The money raised by the event will be distributed throughout the Illawarra to support mothers and families of Down syndrome children and provide sufferers with speech and occupational therapy.
For Mrs Ellem, the day represented the chance to share with others the joy and acceptance her son experiences at Tullimbar Public School.
‘‘His school is fantastic with him,’’ she says. ‘‘He’s the only Down syndrome child at the school but he has a great support unit.
‘‘They donated $1000 and had fund-raisers, a barbecue and mufti day, and then we had about 20 teachers turn up here today.’’