BRATTLEBORO -- Jim Nicholson, who helps organize the annual Buddy Walk in Brattleboro, says the event is held to raise awareness and promote inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.

This year's Buddy Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 5, starting at 10 a.m. on the Brattleboro Common and will include a one-mile walk, speakers, music and lunch.

The Buddy Walk is held in towns and cities all over America and it is sponsored by the National Down Syndrome Society.

Nicholson says the event is way for people with different developmental disabilities to connect with the community, as well as way for the community to strengthen their connection with people with developmental disabilities.

This year all of the money raised will go toward a proposed drop-in center for people with disabilities that supporters want to start in Brattleboro.

A group of families that have children with developmental disabilities wants to open a drop in center that would offer programs for the children and their families, which Nicholson says is an appropriate project to support.

"In my opinion people should be viewed on what they can do, and not on what they can't do," Nicholson said. "People with Down Syndrome and other disabilities can do a lot."

Julie Tamler is working on opening the drop-in center, which she says is still moving forward.

The group is looking for a site, trying to get insurance and starting to develop the programs that would be offered.

"With money raised through the Buddy Walk we will be hiring a coordinator, a person who can pull all of the parts together," Tamler said. "This is wonderful for us because starting a huge fund raiser like this takes a lot of energy and ordinarily takes a few years to achieve. This way the rest of us can continue to put our energy into making the Inclusion Center happen."

The first Buddy Walks were held in 1995 when 17 events were held in different parts of the country.

By 2003 there were 190 walks in five countries and more than $2.5 million was raised.

In 2012 $11.75 million was raised and more than 295,000 people took part in the event.

Only 7 percent of the money that is raised at each event is sent to the National Down Syndrome Society and the rest stays in the community where it is raised.

This is the fifth year a Buddy Walk is being held in Brattleboro.

Last year was not a fundraiser, but in previous years organizers were able to raise as much as $15,000.

In past years the money raised has gone to The Winston Prouty Center and to a scholarship program to send teachers to special education seminars.

Nicholson's daughter, Kayli, has Down Syndrome.

(submitted photo)
(submitted photo) (Picasa)

She is 14 years old and started her first year at Brattleboro Area Middle School in September.

She plays basketball, does gymnastics and is in the band.

Nicholson said the people in Brattleboro and around the region are welcoming and understanding of people with varying abilities though he said everyone can stand to learn a little bit more.

"I think there is always room for growth," he said. "It is hard for some people to open up to people with developmental disabilities, especially when you don't have a lot of experience."

Along with raising money next Saturday he said the event is being held for people of all ages to come out and have fun and meet people with developmental disabilities and their families.

"It is critically important to build relationships and help people understand what people with developmental disabilities are capable of," he said. "Having an event like this is not just about supporting people with developmental disabilities it's about enriching the whole community. We want to show what these folks have to offer."

For more information, visit www.Brattleborobuddywalk.org, or send a check to 30 West St., Brattleboro, Vt., 05301.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard @HowardReformer.