The Emmagizer Buddies were charged up and ready to take the trek around Iroquois Lake Sunday with more than 400 other Buddy Walk participants.
Dressed in blue shirts with their logo emblazoned on the front, the team stood out in the crowd that gathered under cloudy skies for the one-mile stroll.
The Buddy Walk is held to raise awareness and promote acceptance and inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome. It also generates funds for the Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center in Albany, which provides services and support to individuals with Down syndrome and their families, and educates the broader community.
“Awareness is really vital for our individuals to feel accepted and included in the community,” said Lisa Connally, co-chair of the event, whose 4-year-old daughter, Coco, has Down syndrome. “I think there are still misconceptions out there about what individuals with Down syndrome can do in the community. They can have jobs if they want, they can go to school and be in typical classrooms with typical peers.”
Emma Farman, of Slingerlands, is the namesake for the Emmagizer team. The pretty, strawberry-blonde-haired 14-year-old was excited to be part of the walk, but a little bit nervous about the dogs that were also participating, some of them even dressed in team T-shirts.
Emma’s dad, Peter, recalled the day when he and his wife, Gayle, brought their newborn daughter home from the hospital, along with her twin, Katie, who does not have Down syndrome.
He said the Aim High Resource Center found them right away and helped them navigate through the maze of advocacy, early intervention, and the different types of therapy Emma needed.
“There’s a network of people there to guide you through everything from day one if you are smart enough to take them up on it,” he said.
Emma has taught her father that people with Down syndrome have much to offer the community.
“They are capable of doing so much more than any of us ever give them credit for,” he said. “Beyond the obvious — the sweet, the cute, the social and the love — they intellectually have unlimited potential.”
Douglas Rogers, 39, of Colonie, who has Down syndrome, echoed that sentiment.
“Everybody can do anything in their minds,” he said with conviction, as he waited for the Buddy Walk to begin.
Rogers practices what he preaches. He’s a board member with the Aim High Resource Center and skis and golfs in the Special Olympics.
Sunday’s gathering was full of amazing individuals with Down syndrome, who all looked like they were enjoying the day immensely.
Nick Temperine, 13, of Clifton Park, was dancing to the tunes the DJ was spinning underneath the park’s picnic pavilion.
His mom, Carolyn, said her son, who has Down syndrome, has taught her to appreciate life.
“He is a sweet, passionate and very independent young man,” she said.
One of the youngest participants in Sunday’s Buddy Walk was 9-month-old Delia Zinzow, who has Down syndrome.
Her grandmother, Mary Couture of Niskayuna, was gazing at her with fondness as the infant watched the goings-on with wide eyes from her stroller.
“This little girl has been the highlight of our lives,” Couture said. “She is just, oh my God, I can’t even say.”
Couture also had high praise for Aim High.
“The outreach in this area is so unbelievable for people with disabilities. It’s really impressive. So I was really excited about joining this,” she said. “We plan on participating every year.”