NDSS hosted our annual Buddy Walk® on Washington on March 13 – 14 in Washington, DC. The two-day advocacy event brought over 220 individuals from across the country to our nation's capital to advocate for legislative priorities that positively impact the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families. Advocates from the Down syndrome community met with more than 300 members of Congress to bring our issues to the forefront of their agendas.
On Wednesday, March 13, NDSS hosted an advocacy training session to help our advocates prepare for their Congressional visits the next day. The training session included an exclusive event for self-advocates - NDSS Self-Advocates Speak Out hosted by the NDSS Self-Advocate Advisory Board (SAAB).
During our training session, Jim Nussle, a current NDSS Board Member and former US Representative and former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director, provided keynote remarks about "Making Your Voice Heard" in our nation's capital.
Following our training session, NDSS hosted our Buddy Walk® on Washington awards dinner and celebration. We recognized individuals and organizations from the Down syndrome community that fight tirelessly to advocate for people with Down syndrome year-round, including: the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville (DSAJ) with the Buddy Walk® of the Year Award, Daniel Goodrow and Connor Long, Self-Advocate of the Year Award; Nikki Davis and Richard Peck, Advocate of the Year Award; Rick Kosmalski and Jawanda Barnett Mast, NDSS DS-Ambassador of the Year Award; and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), Organization of the Year Award. We were honored to have Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) join us as award presenters.
On Thursday, March 14, NDSS kicked off the day on Capitol Hill by recognizing 16 Congressional leaders as NDSS Champions of Change at our annual breakfast reception. "From coast to coast, NDSS is proud there are so many US Senators and US Representatives fighting every day in Congress for people with Down syndrome and their families," said NDSS President Jon Colman.
NDSS recognized the following members of Congress:
- Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)
- Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland)
- Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pennsylvania)
- Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
- Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland)
- Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
- Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York)
- Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan)
- Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Florida)
- Congressman Mike Honda (D-California)
- Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington)
- Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
- Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)
- Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Texas)
- Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas)
Later that day, NDSS joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) at a press conference for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act - one of our highest legislative priorities for the 113th Congress. John Anton, NDSS DS-Ambassador and Self-Advocate from Massachusetts, spoke at the press event about how the ABLE Act will help him as a 47-year-old with Down syndrome. "There is no other bill in the US Congress that has as much bipartisan, bicameral support as the ABLE Act. It is time that Congress enacts into law the ABLE Act," said NDSS Board Chair Chip Gerhardt.
The ABLE Act has 26 cosponsors in the Senate and over 90 cosponsors in the House. "Passing this landmark legislation will go a long way to help all people with Down syndrome (including my 13 year old daughter Natalie) and other disabilities realize and achieve their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations," said NDSS Board and National Government Affairs Committee Member Steve Beck.
That afternoon, NDSS participated in the Down Syndrome Consortium quarterly meeting in the US Capitol with the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A special thanks goes to the advocates from around the country that took part in the 2013 Buddy Walk® on Washington. If you weren't able to join us, you can do your part to advocate for people with Down syndrome by taking action to contact your senators and representatives about our 2013 legislative priorities.
Learn more about the Buddy Walk® on Washington and the NDSS DS-Ambassador program.