By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Preparations for the fourth annual Buddy Walk & Harvest Fair in Central Massachusetts are in full swing. The event will be held Sunday, Sept. 18, at a new location in Westborough at 10 Hospital Road off of Lyman Street next to Lake Chauncy.
The day’s schedule of events will include music, a raffle, children’s games and entertainment, a fire truck and police car, food vendors and much more. Registration for the 1.5-mile walk along Lake Chauncy will include the festivities, refreshments as well as an event t-shirt.
Jessica Padula and her husband, Jim, will be co-chairing the event this year for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC). Their eldest daughter, Bella, age 8, has Down syndrome and this organization has been an integral part of Bella’s social and educational development.
“MDSC has so many programs and resources for individuals with Down syndrome and their families,” Padula said. “One of their programs is called the First Call Program where someone reaches out to you that is a parent of a child with Down syndrome. That to me, as a mom, to connect with another person during such a tumultuous time with feelings of highs and lows was so helpful. That was the first experience that I had with the MDSC.”
She has been involved with the organization ever since – this will be her third year that she has helped with the Buddy Walk & Harvest Fair. The event was previously held in Uxbridge, a space they have outgrown.
Because Padula grew up in Westborough, she has many connections and contacts that she is reaching out to in order to help make this upcoming event a huge success. She is so appreciative of all of the support she has received from town members.
“I have been to a selectman’s meeting and was invited to speak at a Rotary luncheon to talk about this event,” she said. “Jim Malloy, town manager, had two huge billboards put on Route 9 … My dad, Earl Storey, is the director of recreational fields. He has been instrumental in connecting my husband and I with all of the right people to get Westborough on board and host this event.”
The Buddy Walk & Harvest Fair is an advocacy initiative to generate significant awareness as well as understanding of Down syndrome nationally. The event will also raise funds to support local programs and services offered by the MDSC.
The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress was first established in 1983. It has since grown with over 5,000 members.
“The mission statement of the MDSC is to ensure that individuals with Down syndrome in Massachusetts are valued, included, and given the opportunities and advocacy for people with Down syndrome and their families, educators, healthcare professionals and community at large,” said Padula.
Over 500 participants are expected at this year’s Buddy Walk & Harvest Fair. To register a team or for further information, visit http://mdsc.kintera.org/buddywalkhf2016.
“We get many school-aged volunteers that help the day of the event. Many students that helped last year
from Northbridge are coming back and many students from Westborough are already committed as well,” Padula said. “It’s wonderful to see the community get involved and I am so appreciative of the wonderful committee that has been working hard on this event as well as those in the community who have played a vital role. This event is a lot of fun and I am looking so forward to it.”
Jessica Padula MS, CCC-SLP, is the owner of Speech & Language Specialties, Inc., in Shrewsbury. She also has a passion for working with children who have autism. She resides in Grafton with her husband and daughters Bella, 8, and Violet, 6.