Culverdale students and staff raise money and awareness at Down syndrome ‘Buddy Walk’

A Culverdale Elementary School teacher and a pair of local students braved the elements last weekend to take part in the 2011 Orange County Buddy Walk in Anaheim.

Established in 1995, Buddy Walks are held annually across the U.S. to raise money and to promote the acceptance of individuals with Down syndrome. Locally, teacher Natalie Parsons organized a team known as “Mandy’s Miles of Smiles,” named after her daughter, Mandy.

Culverdale third-grader Abby Lisk — she’s pictured to the right, along with Mrs. Parsons — and Lauren Bulalacao, a former Culverdale student who is now a fourth-grader at Deerfield Elementary, were among the 40-member local contingent, which joined 134 other teams in a sponsored march around Angel Stadium.

And the wet weather didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.

“It was great to see people out there in the rain,” Mrs. Parsons said. “As a mom it was very touching.”

Mandy’s team also included Lauren’s mother and stepfather, Stacy and John Cartwright, as well as Culverdale special education teacher Lindsay Suit, who raised money through pledges but was unable to attend. In all, the group generated nearly $2,000 to benefit local programs and advocacy initiatives — and, again, they represented just one of 135 entries.

Though national figures for 2011 have yet to be released, Buddy Walks generated more than $11.2 million last year, according to the Down Syndrome of Orange County website.

The Orange County Register covered the local Buddy Walk and has a story here.