The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
8 E 41st Street, 8th Floor
New York New York 10017
800-221-4602
[email protected] 

2015 Buddy Walk® on Washington Recap

The National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) annual Buddy Walk® on Washington was a huge success. The two-day advocacy event, held on April 14-15, 2015, brought over 150 people from more than 25 states across the country together to storm Capitol Hill to advocate for legislative priorities that positively impact the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families. Our advocates met with Members of Congress to urge Congressional leaders to work together in a bipartisan way to maintain high expectations for students with intellectual disabilities in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization under the US Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act. We also pushed for the need for more attention on Down syndrome research priorities at the National Institute of Health (NIH), encouraged US Representatives to join the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, and thanked members of Congress for their support in passing the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and provided them with state ABLE updates.

The State of Virginia’s ABLE bill ceremonial signing by Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) with lead sponsor Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn was held at NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington on April 14th

NDSS was honored to have Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe sign Virginia’s ABLE bill at NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington on April 14th. The State of Virginia signed the ABLE Act making Virginia the first state to pass a state version of ABLE since the federal ABLE Act was signed in December 2014 by President Obama.

Meetings on Capitol Hill

NDSS leadership had in-person meetings with House and Senate Leadership, including: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republican Whip Steve Scalise. Our advocates met with over 125 Hill offices on Wednesday, and the feedback we are receiving from advocates, legislators and staff is extremely positive.

State Advocacy Session

This year’s Buddy Walk® on Washington training included a new state advocacy session, led by NDSS Director of State Government Affairs.  It was well-attended by representatives of over 10 states and received very positive feedback.  It included a panel of experienced and successful state advocates who provided advice on engagement of advocates, Government Affairs Committee organization strategies, and effective social media usage in advocacy. Thank you to Maureen Gallagher (from the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress), Mike McLaughlin (from the Maryland Down syndrome Advocacy Coalition) and Jawanda Mast (NDSS Ambassador from Kansas) who provided helpful tips and advice for their peers. (Advocates can find Jawanda’s recommended list of social media resources here:

http://www.valleynonprofitresources.org/pdfs/vnr-putnamsocialmedia-article.pdf)

Another highlight of the state session was the presentation of NDSS’ first State Champion of Change Award to Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn from Virginia, the lead sponsor of Virginia’s ABLE Act (which was the first state ABLE Act to pass in 2015).  Delegate Filler-Corn gave an inspirational keynote about the benefits of state advocacy, along with some insider tips.  

NDSS Champions of Change Congressional Breakfast Reception

At a breakfast reception on the morning of April 15th and throughout the day on Capitol Hill, NDSS honored several leaders and members of Congress as our 2015 “Champions of Change” for their outstanding commitment to the Down syndrome community. We recognized the following leaders and members of Congress:

 

  • Senator Robert Burr (R-North Carolina)
  • Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pennsylvania)
  • Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana)
  • Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska)
  • Senator Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-New York)
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Illinois)
  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)
  • Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
  • Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada)
  • Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-New York)
  • Congressman Andy Barr (R-Kentucky)
  • Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Michigan)
  • Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
  • Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D- California)
  • Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois)
  • Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
  • Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Florida)
  • Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland)
  • Congressman John Katko (R-New York)
  • Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey)
  • Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California)
  • Congressman Luke Messer (R-Indiana)
  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia)
  • Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington)
  • Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-Pennsylvania)
  • Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana)
  • Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
  • Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)
  • Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas)

Buddy Walk® on Washington Awards Dinner

On April 14th, NDSS recognized our advocates from the Down syndrome community that work tirelessly throughout the year to create positive change. We recognized the following individuals and organizations:

DS-Ambassadors of the Year: Lynn Braker, Kentucky and Sherri Harnisch, Nebraska

Self-Advocates of the Year: Ashley DeRamus, Alabama and Garrett Holeve, Florida
 
Stephen Beck Jr. Advocate of the Year: Chip Gerhardt, Ohio

Buddy Walk® of the Year: Down Syndrome Association of South Texas, San Antonio

Organizations of the Year: change.org and Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA)

The State of Virginia’s ABLE bill ceremonial signing by Governor Terry McAuliffe with lead sponsor Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn received local media coverage:

NBC Washington:

http://www.nbcwashington.com/video/#!/news/local/Va--Law-Helps-Secure-Financial-Future-for-Intellectually--Developmentally-Challenged/299774741

ABC 7 News:

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2015/04/virginia-becomes-first-state-to-implement-able-act-helping-families-with-special-needs-children-1131.html

WUSA 9

http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/local/virginia/2015/04/14/able-act-virginia-law/25791203/

Burke Patch:

http://patch.com/virginia/burke/gov-mcauliffe-sign-del-eileen-filler-corns-able-act-bill-tuesday-0

THANK YOU TO ALL ADVOCATES WHO ATTENDED THE 2015 BUDDY WALK® ON WASHINGTON!  LOOK FOR OUR SAVE-THE-DATE DETAILS FOR THE 2016 BUDDY WALK® ON WASHINGTON IN THE NEAR FUTURE. WE HOPE TO SEE YOU BACK IN DC NEXT SPRING!

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  • NDSS Yourway
  • NDSS DS-Ambassadors