BOISE -- The Buddy Walk celebrated its 9th year in Boise this weekend. It is a walk to raise awareness for, and acceptance of, Down syndrome. Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate people with special needs.
The woman who made this walk a reality in Idaho is now a hero to thousands of families in our community who have children with Down syndrome.
Matthew Witte is 13 years old, and he loves to practice Akido. Matt has Down syndrome, and nine years ago he inspired his mom, Melody, to start something truly incredible here in Idaho.
"After Matthew was born, he brought us such great joy. It was a life changing event, it made me more open, more loving, more caring less selfish," said Buddy Walk Founder Melody Witte. "We did not have a Buddy Walk in Idaho, I searched and we were one of two states that did not have a Buddy Walk."
The Buddy Walk is a special event that happens in cities and towns across America every October. It was started by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It also aims to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.
"I decided just to dig in and get started with the first one," said Melody.
That was nine years ago.
"I think the first one we had 230 people and I was the sole organizer," explained Melody. "Each year, I've had more and more help and now we're expecting 1,500 this year."
Matt takes part every year with his Mom and family. He is amazed at how many people show up to support adults and kids just like him.
This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Treasure Valley Down Syndrome Association.
"It allows us to make packets for new parents at the hospitals, they are devastated when their child is born with down syndrome, it allows them to see that this is not the end of the world," said Melody. "It allows us to offer educational classes, scholarships."
Melody is happy to see the event grow each year, and she thinks it will only get bigger.
"I wanted to share the joy these children and all children with special needs bring to society," she explained. "They have a lot to offer the world and they are a part of our world."
Her son Matthew and all the people who take part in the Buddy Walk, are proof of that.