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Thousands fill Werner Park for annual Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk and family festival

The event which is in its 22nd year brings thousands of people from the metro for fun-filled activities.
Posted at 11:18 AM, Sep 25, 2023

PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — Twenty-two years and thousands of participants later, the Step Up for Down Syndrome walk attendees all share a bond, knowing a loved one with down syndrome.

"We like to call it our lucky few club," said Leah Boldt, executive director of the Down Syndrome Alliance of the Midlands. "We all kind of share this common bond of a loved one with Down syndrome. But, it's really cool to make those connections. And get to meet a family that you wouldn't otherwise meet."

Families had the opportunity to be split into teams. Each team carried a common theme — showing support and raising awareness for their loved ones. Joanna Wirick is a first-time participant in the walk and says her baby boy, Luca, is a blessing to her family.

"People with Down syndrome are blessed with an extra chromosome and that's why we have the sun for the extra 21st chromosome," said Wirick.

She said it's important to note how much the stigma around Down syndrome has changed over the past two decades. Something she's glad has changed.

"I feel fortunate to live at the time that we do. I feel like the stigma has really shifted and it is something that is really celebrated. People aren't necessarily scared like they were 15-20 years ago," she said.

Whether it's making one new friend or ten, "the Lucky Few Club" made thousands of people smile at Werner Park.

"You just feel this incredible sense of community here which is beautiful," said Wirick.

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