Largest gathering of Down syndrome community in New England returned to Wakefield after 3-year hiatus to mark Down Syndrome Awareness Month

The MDSC Buddy Walk, the largest gathering of the Down syndrome community in New England, returned to Wakefield, MA after a 3-year-hiatus. Governor Charlie Baker, attending for his 5th time, addressed walkers and accepted an MDSC Leadership Award.
Oct 13, 2022 Mark

Press Release ( - Wakefield, MA - Oct 13, 2022 - The MDSC Buddy Walk, the largest gathering of the Down syndrome community in New England, returned to Wakefield Common after a 3-year-hiatus. At the walk, Governor Charlie Baker addressed the walkers and accepted the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress’ Annual Leadership Award. It was Governor Baker’s 5th time attending the Buddy Walk (the last two years virtually), and his last time as Governor.

“I came here today mostly because I wanted to say thank you to all of you for who you are, what you do, what you mean and what you stand for. Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of a community that is kinder, more positive or more decent than the folks who are part of this community here in the Commonwealth.…I would come here to give you an award; I’m kind of surprised I’m walking away with one,” he said. “I just want to say to all of you how much you mean, not just to political discourse and legislative advocacy, but to the spirit and the tenor of what Massachusetts can be on its very best days.”

Governor Baker was introduced and presented his award by two self advocates with Down syndrome: Ian Angles, a member of MDSC’s Self Advocate Advisory Council, and Collette DiVitto, a successful entrepreneur who founded and serves as CEO of Collettey’s Cookies. “You helped bring ABLE Accounts to Massachusetts and pass the Higher Education Bill,” DiVitto said, referring to two major advancements for the disability community that Governor Baker supported. “Together, these laws will help people with Down syndrome live full, inclusive lives. Thank you for your great leadership and for seeing us!”

“Throughout Governor Baker’s 8 years in the State House corner office, he has consistently proven himself to be a steadfast advocate for our loved ones with Down syndrome and other disabilities in so many ways,” said MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher. “Governor Baker’s genuine interest in and connection to our families has translated into concrete action that has made real and positive impacts on the lives of countless individuals with disabilities across the Commonwealth. Even as the end of his tenure approaches, his commitment to our community has not wavered.”

In July, Governor Baker signed the Higher Education Bill into law, which will help people with Down syndrome, Autism, and other intellectual disabilities attend state colleges and universities. It has been MDSC’s top legislative priority for more than 10 years. On Sunday, Governor Baker will give brief remarks, addressing thousands of family members, friends and people with Down syndrome as they celebrate National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Two other state leaders were recognized on stage Sunday as Legislators of the Year for their support of the Down syndrome community and in particular for their support of the Higher Ed Bill: State Rep. Sean Garballey of Arlington, a sponsor of the House bill; and Senator Michael Rodrigues of Westport, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, who helped ensure the bill’s passage. Both legislators have been longtime supporters of disability policy and funding at the State House. MDSC is planning a ceremony for Senator Rodrigues in his district for him to accept this award in the coming weeks.

In addition to the legislative awards, MDSC presented its Allen C. Crocker Award of Excellence, the organization’s highest honor, to Marie Blackburn of Mashpee. As founder, CEO and president of Cape Cod’s Conference For Women; founder of Driven Women TV on community television; commissioner of the Cape Cod & the Islands Coalition on the Status of Women; Owner of Marie’s Homemade Breads; and founder of Band Together for Inclusion, Marie has worked for decades to foster the acceptance, inclusion, and empowerment of people who are traditionally underrepresented in society.

Vanessa Welch of Boston25 News received MDSC’s Annual Media Award. he has emceed the Buddy Walk 5 times, twice remotely, including last year from her own living room, and worked with MDSC and her colleagues at Boston25 to share accurate, empowering, positive news stories about people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

A Leadership Award was also be presented to MDSC Honorary Board members Janet & Chris Vincze of North Reading who have helped forge critical relationships for MDSC in the Governor’s office and the State House and become some of the staunchest supporters of MDSC and people with Down syndrome.

During the post-walk program, Buddy Walk Committee chairs Denise and Bill Rothwell of Lynnfield announced and recognized the Buddy Walk’s Top fundraising teams. More than 130 teams are seeking to raise $525,000 to support critical MDSC programs and services for people with Down syndrome throughout the lifespan.

The Down Syndrome community in Massachusetts and throughout New England has been gathering at Wakefield’s Lake Quannapowitt for the Buddy Walk since 1996. Donations can still be made at

MDSC would like to thank its national partner, the National Down Syndrome Society, and its more than two dozen Buddy Walk sponsors, without whom the walk would not be possible: the Shipley Foundation, Boston25 News, TownLine Luxury Lanes, Faber Law Group, Enterprise Holdings, Institution for Savings, MG&M The Law Firm and many others that appear on MDSC’s Buddy Walk website and on the backs of each 2022 Buddy Walk shirt.

More About Down Syndrome

Down syndrome occurs when some or all of a person’s cells have an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades – from 15 in 1955 to 60 today. People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many ways. One in every 792 babies is born with Down syndrome in the United States, making it the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. There are approximately 206,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States, and 4,500 in Massachusetts (about 95 babies with Down syndrome are born each year in Massachusetts). Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.

More About MDSC

As we have over the past nearly three decades, the MDSC continues to ensure that all individuals in Massachusetts with Down syndrome are valued, included, and given every opportunity to pursue fulfilling lives. In the early years, parents met in a living room to share information about their children, provide support for each other and strategize how to educate their families, schools and communities. More than 28 years later, the MDSC has over 3,000 members, an energetic Board of Directors, a dynamic management team, and a vision to ensure that every person with Down syndrome has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Today, the MDSC is on the cutting edge of Down syndrome advocacy at a time when an innovative, forward-thinking vision is needed.

The MDSC offers a broad array of programs to serve people with Down syndrome and their families throughout the state, including: our signature Parent’s First Call Program, a volunteer, state-wide group of trained parent mentors available 24/7 that is a national model; two major annual conferences that draw national and international experts in their fields; a Buddy Walk® Program that gives individuals, schools, community groups, and local businesses an opportunity to get involved in fundraising campaigns and events year-round; our Your Next Star employment initiative, which is opening the eyes of employers to the value of employees with Down syndrome; and Self-Advocate Programs like Advocates in Motion and our Self-Advocate Advisory Council, which provide opportunities for teens and adults with Down syndrome while making empowerment a central component.

Source : MDSC Buddy Walk 2022 Follow on Google News


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