On Sunday October 7, the DSHS cheerleaders were invited to participate in the Buddy Walk, an event to raise money and awareness of Down Syndrome. This event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Council (MDSC.org) and featured a 3 mile walk around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield for families with a Down Syndrome member. The walk started with about 100 participants about 10 years ago but this year there were well over 3000 participants from all over Massachusetts.
The keynote guest speaker was Lauren Potter, better known as Becky Jackson on the hit TV series Glee. On the show she plays a girl with Down Syndrome who auditioned and, after much hesitation due to her condition, made the high school cheerleading team -the Cheerios. She spoke to the crowd about the importance of going after your dreams. As a young child at age 3, she developed a love for dance and her mother fully supported her participation and inclusion in activities although she may have been slightly challenged with DS. Her parents always told her to reach for the stars and that no one could stop her but herself.
As a teenager her dream was to be on television. She got a call at age 16 from a director in Hollywood who was looking to cast a handful of actresses with Down Syndrome. Not knowing what to expect, she eagerly met and was sent to audition for the role of Becky in the new show on Fox TV, Glee. When she got a call back, it was a dream come true. Since accepting the part, Lauren has become a spokesperson for Down Syndrome and has been on many committees to help others across the nation with similar situations to also go after their dreams. Her speech was extremely inspirational to all.
Realizing the synergy of having the cheer team rally support and the recognition Lauren’s name would bring to this event, chairperson Kathy Horrigan Dye invited the DSHS Cheer team to participate after having her own young daughter Amanda participate in a cheer clinic run by the team in their hometown last spring. When Kathy invited the girls to participate in this worthwhile cause, there was absolutely no hesitation. Eventhough it was a long weekend and many of the team had SATs the day before the girls were very happy to help out for the day. The cheer team yelled basic cheers and chanted near the main stage throughout the walk, while many participants took off for their walk, and later when they returned to the finish line. Each walker felt a true sense of pride as they walked through the finish line with cheerleaders lined up on both sides cheering them on. The DSHS cheer team felt honored to partake in this day.
Ironically, during the lunch break, a young high school freshman girl came over to talk to the DSHS Cheer team and expressed her interest in cheerleading. She herself had recently experienced a situation of not being able to partake in her high school cheer team this fall. She quickly became know as our real life “Becky” from a western Massachusetts suburb since she also has Down Syndrome. Her father expressed how the word “inclusion” wasn’t even in the vocabulary at his daughter’s school. He mentioned how much his daughter wanted to participate and feel a part of a cheer team.
Since our DSHS Cheer team would be holding the next cheer clinic the following week for students in grades 3-5, we invited our “Becky” to join us. She and her dad were totally thrilled and will be at our game and clinic on October 12 as our featured guest. Originally postponed due to the weather, the DS Cheer team is holding the second annual cheer clinic on October 12 and the young girls will cheer at half time with our special guest. It will be a very special evening and give all the cheerleaders and the community a chance to see how meaningful the concept of “inclusion” really is. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, thus, the team will collect money for this cause during the game. If you would like to learn more about Down Syndrome or make a contribution to help in the fight for Down Syndrome acceptance and inclusion, please visit http://www.mdsc.org. In addition if you are at next Friday’s game be sure to look for the cheerleaders walking around with the meg