Step Up, Run, Walk for Down Syndrome

Step for Down Syndrome Walk/Run event was held at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds on Oct. 22. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]

Participants rounding the corner on the 5k run. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]
Participants rounding the corner on the 5k run. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]
By Liz Juarez | Reporter
@Lyzzy_J

A sea of blue-shirted runners and walkers were spotted Saturday morning as they made their way through the streets of Clovis for the Step Up for Down Syndrome 5k run/walk hosted by the Down Syndrome Association of Central California (DSACC).

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and along with the run, the Clovis Rodeo Grounds were open to the public for a celebration to encourage acceptance, involvement, and recognition.

The crowd was treated to live music by the Blues Brothers, and a guest appearance by Brandon Gruber from Break the Barriers.

Four out of the six Blues Brother’s group members have Down Syndrome, and were happy to be a part and play at this event to celebrate awareness and appreciation for Down Syndrome.

Brandon Gruber, a student at Aptos High School with Down Syndrome, started a website called 321life after being crowned homecoming king in 2015 to help raise money for underprivileged kids who do not have access to the resources that were made available to him.

Participants like Beth Ford have been a part of this event for quite some time.

“We have a daughter who is 30 years old with Down Syndrome so we have been a part of this for 30 years,” said Ford. 

Step Up President, Denise Allshouse and MC, Michael Allshouse. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]
Step Up President, Denise Allshouse and MC, Michael Allshouse. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]

Clubs and organizations all around Fresno such as The Arc Fresno, Best Buddies, the Disability Rights Act, the Aktion Club, Fresno State Wayfinders, and the Resources for Independence were a few of the many organizations that were there to spread awareness and support.

Program Director of DSACC Jennifer Whiting said her goal is to spread awareness and that all money raised would be going to DSACC.

“I have organized for eight years now, and I’m just honored to make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s connecting them with another family in the community or connecting with somebody,” said Whiting.

Whiting said that they get new families each year.

Families were all around the grounds enjoying the music, the food, and celebrating with their loved ones.

Around the grounds, a little train was seen passing along giving kids rides as another form of entertainment for the little ones.

Jacqueline Naman, who is an early childhood special educator and is part of the Fresno County Office of Education had the idea to have a “fun zone” for kids at the event.

“We used to come with our families, and one year it all happened because one of my families suggested that there needed to be a little something maybe for the kids to do, and we got together and organized with other intervention programs, said Naman. “This is called the fun zone now, it’s just a place for kids to play.”

Special performance by Break the Barriers Team. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]
Special performance by Break the Barriers Team. [Photo by Ron Sundquist]

A set of tents were placed by Naman and her family for the younger kids to play with like bubbles, swing sets, slides, and other motor activities.

Naman said she is there to help spread awareness and that there is nothing wrong with having Down Syndrome.

“Not that there aren’t going to be challenges – and that’s what we’re here to support, because it can be difficult telling your family. A lot of families don’t even know what Down Syndrome is so we’re kind of spreading that awareness,” said Naman.