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Friends Buddy Walk kicks off virtually Sept. 20

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
The Friends Buddy Walk is going virtual for the first time this year. 
The annual event is celebrating 20 years this year. The group promotes community understanding and acceptance of individuals with Down Syndrome. 
The event will be held from Sept. 20-26, allowing participants to walk wherever they want and teams can host their own celebrations. The goal of this walk is to raise awareness for Down Syndrome. 
For people like Bruce and Rosemarie Shields, raising awareness is the ultimate goal.
This is the first year the couple has heard of the walk despite living in the area since 1983 with their son James, who has Down Syndrome.
According to the couple, they found out about the event from their son’s physical trainer, Leisel Elrod. 
James is 58 years old. He worked in the vocational center at the Dawn of Hope for many years. He has also had several jobs in the community as well. While he and his family lived in Germany for a few years, he went to school there and learned the language very well. 
“He’s had a variety of experiences,” his father, Bruce Shields, said. 
James currently likes to do crafts and he even does paper shredding for people. He also sings in a choir for the Friends organization, knows instruments and has been active in his family’s church.
His parents hope that by sharing their story and sharing information on this walk, as well as the program itself, people are aware.
“We think it’s a good idea to get the word out, as there may be people out there who don’t know about it, just as we did not know about it,” Rosemarie Shields explained. “We’re hoping this will reach people and let them know what’s going on.”
For their participation in the walk, they intend to space it out and add up their miles.
One of their difficulties is that James is now often in a wheelchair and doesn’t walk as much, however they can walk and push him.
His parents said James enjoys getting together with others, and this is another opportunity for him to do just that. 
The following are admission prices. This includes T-shirts and medals:
$20 – Adult (ages 13 and up) 1 mile Walk
$25 – Adult (ages 13 and up) 3.21 mile Run/Walk
$10 – Youth (ages 3-12) 1 mile Walk
$5 – Individual with Down Syndrome – 1 mile or 3.21 Run/Walk
These prices include a T-shirt, medals, a combination of yard signs and choice of novelty items.
$50 – FRIENDS supporter
$100 Sponsorship
$150 Sponsorship 
$250 Sponsorship
$500 Sponsorship
$1000 Sponsorship