On Saturday, about 30 Fort Payne students, friends and family of Kendle Larson and Katie Wright attended the 2018 Chattanooga Down Syndrome Society Buddy Walk at AT&T Field.
Jamie Larson, Kendle Larson’s mother, said they have been attending Buddy Walks since her daughter was 6 months old.
“The Buddy Walk is a day set aside to recognize people with Down syndrome and promote awareness about how they can [do things],” Jamie Larson said.
“A lot of people think [people with Down syndrome] can’t do a lot of things, but they can pretty much do anything they want to do.”
She said she learned about the organizations that host the Buddy Walks after Kendle Larson was born.
“When Kendle was born, the Huntsville group sent someone to the hospital to visit us and [they] brought us all kinds of information and wanted to make sure we were OK and that [Down syndrome] is not what you may think, and that has inspired me to try to do that with others too,” Jamie Larson said.
The Buddy Walk to Larson is a day for the children and adults with Down syndrome to have fun and realize “they can,” just like the shirts at the CDSS Buddy Walk said. She said they have Buddy Walks all over, but they always attend the Huntsville and Chattanooga walks.
“I hope they feel like it’s a fun day,” Larson said. “Kendle knows she has Down syndrome, and she will point out other people who do, but I hope she sees these other kids doing things like singing, or up on the stage dancing or playing in the bouncy house and realize she can do that. Then you see typical kids running around with these kids and really there’s not much difference. Everyone is just happy to be there.”
She said, like how Kendle is aware she has Down syndrome, other kids at the Buddy Walk from her class are aware and comfortable discussing their diagnosis as well.
“My favorite quote of the day was when the kids were talking about different things like autism and Down syndrome, and one of the kids said, ‘I have autism, and I have some other things too, but I can’t remember what they are,’” Larson said. “I just feel like if the kids keep their guard up, they will shut down, but at the Buddy Walks, they feel like ‘Oh, I can do whatever’ because nobody is pushing standards saying you have to do this. They are just running around being kids and having fun.”
Katie Wright is 10 years old, and like Kendle, she has Down syndrome. She knows Kendle through Kendle’s Friends at Rainsville First Baptist Church, her Step-Mother Kristin Wright said. They attend the Buddy Walks in Chattanooga and Huntsville, also.
Jamie Larson said Kendle’s Friends is a group created and based out of Rainsville First Baptist Church. She said the group was started about eight years ago.
“Our youth pastor came to us and said he would like to get the youth involved in helping with a lot of the special needs kids in the area,” Larson said. “A lot of the parents don’t come to church because they feel like their kids make noise or are a hindrance or there are no classes for them. So, this is a way to reach out to those people and let them know they are welcome, and they have a quarterly event where all the kids get a one on one helper for the whole night and they play games, watch movies and do arts and crafts. They feed the parents.”
Each year, Jaime Larson said she sends out newsletters to friends, families and supporters of Kendle to let them know what Kendle has been up to and about the Buddy Walks for anyone wanting to come to a walk or donate to the team for a walk.
If any individuals or business are interested in attending, donating or sponsoring Kendle’s Team for next year’s Buddy Walks, they can contact Larson at