Since 1995, the Buddy Walk® has become the premier advocacy event for Down syndrome in the United States. It is also the world's most widely recognized public awareness program for the Down syndrome community.
Here are some milestones to show how the program has grown:
- The Buddy Walk® program was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome and to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October. The name Buddy Walk® promotes inclusion between friends of every ability.
- 17 events took place across the country during the inaugural year of the Buddy Walk®.
- Chris Burke led the flagship New York City Buddy Walk®.
- NDSS introduced the Times Square Video to bring attention to the Buddy Walk® program and raise awareness of individuals with Down syndrome in a public setting.
- The Buddy Walk® added a fundraising component to raise money for local and national programs and services.
- NDSS introduced a new Buddy Walk® logo‚ the now familiar blue and yellow graphic of a family holding hands.
- A national Wal-Mart commercial featuring footage of the Buddy Walk® in Colorado Springs, CO aired, which had a large impact in raising awareness about the Buddy Walk®. Many new Walks were organized as a result of the publicity the national program received.
- Over 100 Buddy Walk® events took place.
- Actor John C. McGinley joined NDSS as National Buddy Walk® Spokesman.
- The Buddy Walk® site launched.
- The first comprehensive Buddy Walk® Manual for Walk organizers was distributed.
- NDSS further demonstrated the importance of the growing National Buddy Walk® Program by designating it as one of their five key strategic initiatives hiring a National Buddy Walk® Coordinator to oversee the direction of the program and assist local organizers.
- The Buddy Walk® logo was trademarked by NDSS.
- More than 190 Buddy Walk® events took place in 49 states and 5 countries with over 180,000 participants raising more than $2.5 million.
- BuddyWalk.org was re-launched with new tools and features for walkers and organizers.
- More than 210 Buddy Walk® events took place with over 200,000 participants raising more than $4.5 million.
- NDSS celebrated 10 years of the Buddy Walk®! From 1995 - 2005 over 1,500,000 people participated in Buddy Walks worldwide.
- More than 250 Buddy Walk® events took place with over 200,000 participants raising more than $5.5 million.
- The National Buddy Walk® Program welcomed its first regional and national partners: Regal Entertainment Group; Knology; the American Physical Therapy Association, Section on Pediatrics.
- The Buddy Walk® public service announcement, starring TV Host Nancy O'Dell, TV Host Meredith Vieira, Actor John C. McGinley, Actor and NDSS Goodwill Ambassador Chris Burke, and Actress Andrea Friedman, was played nationwide at all Regal Cinemas before every movie for two weeks to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month and the National Buddy Walk® program.
- More than 250 Buddy Walk® events took place with over 250,000 participants raising more than $10.5 million.
- NDSS held the first Buddy Walk® Conference in Columbus, Ohio where Buddy Walk® organizers were able to learn from NDSS leadership and share best practices with one another.
- NDSS introduced a new licensing agreement that commits Buddy Walk® groups to a 7% contribution that supports the NDSS National Policy Center in Washington D.C.
- The first Buddy Walk® held on a military base in a combat zone took place at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan.
- More than 250 Buddy Walk® events took place with over 285,000 participants raising more than $11 million.
- The Buddy Walk® program welcomed its newest national partner, Down Syndrome Footprint
- The first Buddy Walk® in Japan was held at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa
- More than 250 Buddy Walk® events took place with over 295,000 participants raising more than $11.75 million.
- The Buddy Walk® program welcomes its newest national partners, the Emmy Award-winning Imagination Movers and Vacation Roost
- Much of BuddyWalk.org is incorporated into the newly re-launched NDSS.org, making the NDSS site a one-stop-shop for the most extensive and up-to-date information for all Down syndrome-related topics.
- The Buddy Walk® has been ranked in the top 30 fundraising events nationwide for: money raised, number of participants and best series event since 2008 according to Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council Survey results.