New name, new location

Changes in place for a bigger, better Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk

Big changes are in store for this year’s 16th annual Step Up 4 Down Syndrome Walk in Lake Charles on Saturday.

On Sept. 29, families and friends across Southwest Louisiana will gather together to celebrate the special people in their life with Down Syndrome in what organizer Melanie Sarro said has become “a day of inclusion at its finest.”

“This is a day that people here with Down Syndrome look forward to all year long because it is a day to celebrate them as individuals and to surround them with love and support,” Sarro said. “This is a day they can truly feel accepted.”

At 9 a.m., participants will begin gathering at the Lake Charles Civic Center for final registration opportunities and enjoy the entertainment provided by local magician Aaron Baca.

After early announcements, the one-mile walk will kick off at 10 a.m., and will be immediately followed by a silent auction, food, games, and entertainment for all.

The event has come a long way since its inception. Having outgrown its two previous venues, first at McNeese and most recently at Prien Lake Park, the walk’s ever-growing popularity has now found itself on the schedule of events at the city’s Civic Center for the foreseeable future.

Last year’s event boasted a crowd of more than 1,000 participants, and Sarro said that she believes the larger venue will open the doors for even more fun and entertainment at future events.

“This event is so much more than a walk; it’s a party. Being able to have use of the Civic Center’s Amphitheater is going to allow us to provide even more fun at our event,” she said.

The walk’s growth mirrors the growth that its hosting organization, Up 4 Down, has experienced over the years. This year’s event will unveil the organization’s new moniker, the Down Syndrome Association of Southwest Louisiana, and the chance to offer greater opportunities for people with Down Syndrome.

In 2001, Up 4 Down was birthed by founder Debbie Seaux, who held meetings in her own home for other parents of children with Down Syndrome to offer them support and assistance in finding services for their children. This year, the organization moved into its first official office at 616 Kirby St.

In looking to the future for the organization, Sarro said she hopes to see the implementation of new programs for the group’s members, to include training programs for employment opportunities.

“There really are so many opportunities out there that I would love to bring here to our community and benefit our members. Having a job gives a person a sense of pride and meaning, and everyone deserves a chance for that in their life,” Sarro said.

The Sept. 29 walk is the main official fundraiser of the year for the organization. Profits will fund existing programs including its annual Christmas party and next year’s return of the successful Bike Camp that is already slated for the week of June 10.

 

• The 16th annual Step Up 4 Down Syndrome Walk will be Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Lake Charles Civic Center.

• Registration opens at 9 a.m. The one-mile walk kicks off at 10 a.m.

• Participants may register early for the walk until Thursday at www.up-4downswla.org. The cost to register is $15 per person or $50 for a group of up to five members. Participants with Down Syndrome register at no cost.

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