Buddy Walk 2016

Last year, I wrote a soliloquy on the Buddy Walk. Definitely read it if you’re not familiar with the Buddy Walk, but this year, I’ll get to the pictures pretty quickly. What you need to know is that this past Saturday, 6,000 people gathered at Centennial Park in downtown Nashville to celebrate the people we love who have Down syndrome. Twenty-four of those were Team Lina, our people who went well out of their way to show their love for Lina and their commitment to helping us make this community the place it needs to be for her. Many of you donated and sent your love over the miles, and you, too, were a part of the day. We ate lunch, relaxed and chatted and participated in what – thanks to numbers that swell every year – was more a crawl than a walk, admiring the hundreds of posters featuring people of all ages who sport that extra chromosome. It’s easily one of my favorite days of the year.

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An already sleepy girl

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Catching up with our sweet friend Kirzden. Many of you joined us in praying for her during a very rough patch a while back. My heart grows a size when I see her smile.

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Team Lina rocks!!

Spring Picnic at the Zoo

Today was one of our favorite Down Syndrome Association events: the Spring Picnic at the Zoo. It’s an event for member families, and it’s done up right. There’s a meal, time for mingling with families from all over the region, plus full access to the zoo. This year, there was face painting and a photo booth. The weather was perfect, and the kids are both old enough now to really enjoy the zoo. It was a fantastic day, and we are, as always, so grateful for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee.

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Jumping like a kangaroo

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Greeting a friend

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Making a monkey

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Team Lina T-shirts

I could spend this post telling you about my day yesterday, when I lost one of my Mother’s Day rings at the Target checkout and had to hunt it down, then realized I’d locked my keys in the car on a day I’d forgotten my cell phone at home, then had to try to comfort a five-year-old who fell and cracked his head on the floor while we waited for daddy…

But really, I’d rather tell you about the Team Lina shirts we’re offering to support the Buddy Walk. The design was hand-drawn, and I think they are terribly fun. Wear your shirts to the Buddy Walk, or support Team Lina in style from afar! They come in a full range of kid and adult sizes and are $18/each, with all proceeds going to our Buddy Walk fundraising efforts.

Order your Team Lina shirts today!!

Buddy Walk!

Yes, we’re all still sweltering in the summer heat, but good news: you can start planning for the Buddy Walk in October, when it will (hopefully) be delightfully cool and clear!

This year’s Nashville Buddy Walk is October 31, and we’re hoping local friends will join us for the event. It is such a fun time, and we’d love for you to experience the acceptance and joy the event offers. And of course, the Buddy Walk raises funds for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee, which is a cause very dear to our hearts.

Register to walk or donate here!!

Spring Picnic at the Zoo

We joined something like 600 other people today for the Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee Spring Picnic at the Zoo. We did this last year – only it was a summer picnic then, and a lot hotter! – and it was so fun to see how much more Lina got out of the experience this year. My in-laws were able to join us, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the kids had a blast. We talked with plenty of families we know and met a few new ones.

We feel so lucky to have a local organization that offers these kinds of opportunities. We have landed in an amazing community, and these events carry such a palpable sense of acceptance and celebration. (A sort-of actual conversation Jon had: “You’re worried your kid will pull my kid’s hair? Hey, me, too! Maybe they’ll really go at it and cure each other!”) Parents of older kids pass down advice about IEP meetings, we stop to coo over the tiny newest members, we celebrate the recovery of kids who spent time in the hospital, we dance to MC Hammer and Taylor Swift, the kids eat too many cookies, we notice kids who look like older or younger versions of ours, we juggle plates and messes and tired little ones. It’s real and it’s joyful.

Everyone should get to experience a community like this.

Note: I wish I could share more pictures of this amazing group, but I don’t have releases to publicly post photos of other families and wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so without permission.

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Father’s Day at the zoo

The Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee hosted a Summer Family Picnic at the Zoo for member families today. It was a great event, with about 400 people in attendance. I wish I’d taken the time to photograph the fantastic kids (and some adults) with Down syndrome who were there. I met several families with little ones Lina’s age. I love knowing Lina will grow up alongside other kids with Down syndrome. My hope is that she will be a fully-integrated part of her community, in church, in school and in our lovely city, but also strongly connected to a group of people who share this part of her experience. There were so, so many beautiful kids, as varied and full of life as any group of kids ever is. I think she will find many friends among them.

We brought along both sets of grandparents, two uncles and an aunt, and we took full advantage of our time at the zoo. Temps hit the low 90s, so we sweated it out and finally hauled our weary selves and our well-laden Radio Flyer out the exit a half-hour before closing. After a lovely Father’s Day dinner together at a little Persian restaurant, we ferried two exhausted kiddos home and talked about how awesome it is that our families enjoy being together. Also: this family has about the best collection of dads you’ll find anywhere.

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Corin adored the carousel. 

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Lina did not.

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An hour-and-a-half nap in the shade, and she was ready for the padded little-kid playground.

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Buddy Walk!

I intended to have lots of fun photos of our first Buddy Walk to share. It turned out, however, that taking the camera out to shoot photos would have risked water damage. So much for that perfect weather we expected… (Friday and Sunday were 65 and sunny, for the record.)

So the only photos from the day are the cell phone variety and… damp. Which is an accurate representation of the event.

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We did have a few stretches of slightly drier and warmer weather. The event was celebrity-themed, so each person with Down syndrome got a chance to walk a little red carpet, which was surprisingly touching. The walk itself is a short parade around one end of Nashville’s Centennial Park. Cheerleaders were stationed along the path, and we enjoyed seeing the signs with pictures of so many adorable kiddos.

After the walk, we bravely soldiered through a soggy, chilled picnic lunch as temperatures dropped further. (I was the chicken. After scarfing enough food to stave off starvation, I rushed my unjacketed and half-numb self and the baby to the Jeep, where we waited in relative warmth for the real troopers to get everything packed up.) As soon as we got home, we started a fire in the fireplace and made ourselves some hot chocolate.

Even with the less-than-hospitable weather, we had a lot of fun. I want to say a special thank you to my sweet friend Rebecca, her husband Kirk and their brave kids, who hung in through the wet and chill to show their support. We’re already looking forward to next year, when we can put into use some of the fun ideas we got from other families who know how to do a Buddy Walk right.

And I want to say another thank you to every person who donated. Your contributions have gone to a truly deserving organization that does so much for people with Down syndrome in this community. Because of you, Lina’s first Buddy Walk was a definite success.