One mile. One cause. For love.
For the past two years, PEC Member Services Agent Yesica Lopez and her family have walked one mile in the annual Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas (DSACT) Buddy Walk at Reunion Ranch in Georgetown. The walk promotes the acceptance of people with Down syndrome and raises funds nationwide to benefit programs and services for the congenital disorder.
The Lopezes became passionate about Down syndrome awareness when their 21-month-old son, Oscar, was diagnosed soon after birth. Having Oscar has only brought their family closer together, and while it hasn’t been easy, Lopez said she wouldn’t change a single thing about their life. It’s for that reason they believe in educating others about the syndrome.
“It was very hard for us at first, but when you look at him, he is just such a happy baby,” Lopez said. “We want people to know him and be comfortable with him. The Buddy Walk helps us make others aware of this disorder, all while we celebrate our sweet boy.”
Last year, the Buddy Walk raised $224,000, a record-breaking amount for the association and well over the $150,000 goal. Through sponsors for her one-mile walk, Lopez raised $1,000, with several PEC employees contributing. As a thank you, the donors’ names were placed on the Lopezes’ Buddy Walk T-shirts under the team name “Oscar’s Love List.”
Lopez is overwhelmed with the amount of love and support Oscar has received through family, friends and DSACT. Oscar was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was just one day old. Early on, Lopez was encouraged to enroll Oscar in intervention courses, and he now has in-home, one-on-one DSACT therapy sessions that include physical, nutritional, occupational and speech therapy.
The DSACT provides these therapy programs on a sliding scale based on a family’s income. Lopez has already seen continuous improvements in Oscar from his 60-minute sessions. Through them, she has learned to accept help, as she could not do all of this without the support systems of her community and the association.
“Oscar is happy, healthy and very much where he should be in his behavior as just a regular kid today,” Lopez said. “I think it’s because we treat him like any other kid and we don’t want to make him feel different. We cannot express enough gratitude to everyone who supports us and Oscar.”
Lopez and her family feel blessed with Oscar and spiritually led to advocate awareness. She says children and adults with Down syndrome are the most caring, loving individuals, that they have a kind of love that sets no boundaries, and we could learn from the way they all love us.
“Everyone has a call and a purpose, but mine is to tell everyone these beautiful people are more normal than we give them credit for,” Lopez said. “To me, they are here with us to show that love is unconditional.”
For more information on the Buddy Walk or the DSACT, please visit www.dsact.org.