Down but not out

Buddy Walk helps to create awareness of Down syndrome

By David L. Podos

Hanna Park in downtown Utica was bustling with activity as Upstate Cerebral Palsy recently held its 23rd annual Buddy Walk.

The walk creates awareness of Down syndrome and corresponds with Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which is observed in October.

“The Buddy Walk helps Down syndrome clients as it serves to bring them recognition in the community,” said Kristen Vennero, vice president of communications at UCP. “The clients wait all year in anticipation of the yearly event. It brings a sense of camaraderie to them. Beyond that, it brings great positive and healthy energy to all participants. Our clients are able to make connections with other people who are diagnosed with Down syndrome and that is a good thing.”

According to Vennero, the event was the biggest yet with more than 400 people attending.

“The Buddy Walk is such a great event. It brings families, classmates, neighbors, co-workers and friends out to promote people with Down syndrome,” said Julie Suprenant, director of communications at UCP. “These people go to school, work, and contribute to the community. They deserve our kindness and respect like any other person.”

Chromosomal defect

Down syndrome is congenital and a disorder that affects both intellectual capacities as well as physical abilities. It comes about from an extra copy of chromosomes (specifically, chromosome 21).

One out of every 700 babies born in the United States has Down syndrome, according to

This equates to 6,000 babies born with Down syndrome each year in the U.S.

Even though the disorder can be a challenge, many people with the syndrome live full and productive lives.

Allison Bishop attended the UCP Buddy Walk. She owns Allies Celfie Central, a photo booth business.

As her business card states: “It’s all of the fun of a photo booth without the booth, creating instant memories and instant connections!”

Bishop has Down syndrome.

Allison’s sister Kelly supported her and helped to get the business off the ground, from website development to the design of business cards. Allison says since she started over two years ago, she has provided her services for over 200 events.

“I am so excited to be working and doing something that I really enjoy. I love seeing people happy and having fun,” she said.

Bishop is an alumnus of New Hartford schools, attended College Works at Mohawk Valley Community College, and has received numerous recognitions for advocacy for those with Down syndrome and disabilities.