The 2022 “buddies” at the fifth annual Walk Your Socks Off event at Tawawa Park in Sidney.

Submitted photo

SIDNEY — Walk Your Socks Off is returning to Tawawa Park on Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Walk Your Socks Off (WYSO) is hosted by Mary Topp and Jackie Ward, in partnership with the Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association (MVDSA). The event began six years ago as a result of Topp and Ward wanting to bring more awareness and events to the more northern areas of Ohio compared to the usual location of MVDSA events, Dayton. Both have had experiences raising children with down syndrome and understand the necessity of having a community nearby for support and inclusion.

WYSO typically raises between $7,000 and $8,000 each year. The funds go to MVDSA which ensures the money stays in the area it was raised in and helps fund future events to raise awareness and create a larger community for individuals with down syndrome and their loved ones. Each year, a percentage of the previous year’s funds raised at WYSO is donated to help build inclusive playgrounds in the area. This year, the 2022 WYSO funds are being used to EVERYbody Plays Park in Urbana.

In the past, WYSO funds have been donated to A Park 4 All Abilities in Coldwater, Tawawa Park inclusive playground, St. Marys All Abilities Park and the Botkins Community Park.

At this year’s WYSO there will be plenty activities for all ages including bounce houses, chalk, bubbles, an activity from Topsy Turvy Toys, face painting, a scavenger hunt and a time for everyone to share stories of recent accomplishments.

“We also want to honor all of our individuals that have down syndrome, so families will give us a little blurb about them,” said Topp. “We celebrate all of the accomplishments. To us, nothing is too small, everything’s worth celebrating. Which is how life should be.”

Even with all of the various activities, the main event is the walk to raise awareness. Along the approximately half-mile trail there are signs with facts about down syndrome and information about each of the event’s sponsors.

Each team participating is registered online at www.walkyoursocksoff.org and raises money to support the event, down syndrome awareness and MVDSA. To sign up to participate, visit the WYSO website and set up a new or returning team, join a team, or sign up as an individual. So far there are six teams registered to participate in the event and the fundraiser has raised just over $4,000 of their $12,000 goal. WYSO accepts donations online and the day of the event. Bring the whole family out and sign up as a team for $21, each carload will count as a team. Even if you do not wish to participate, the event is open to the public to come out and show support for individuals with down syndrome and the MVDSA.

“The reason we pick number 21 is that down syndrome is three copies of the 21st chromosome,” said Topp.

This year’s event sponsors so far include 6S Products, The Botkins Palazzo, Grand Lake Health System, Goodyear Shoe Service, Wildwood Farm, Koenig Equipment, Sons of the American Legion Post 184 and Alveetro Orthodontics. WYSO also received in-kind donations from Fathom Realty, Summer Nights Entertainment, Ernst Sporting Goods, Topp-Notch Photography, Topsy Turvy Toys, Cargill and Buckeye Ford Sidney. They also recevied a $500 grant from the Midwest Electric Community Connection Fund which is being used to pay for rental of a trackless train and bounce house for the event.

“Now there’s a nice group up in this area that get together and do things,” said Topp. “Miami Valley Down Syndrome Association offers so many activities and so much support for families and so we still go in that direction for some things too, but we try to do stuff up here too. It’s a lot more doable if you’ve got multiple kids or if you need to talk to somebody or you want to get together, if you’ve got somebody in your backyard instead of an hour away.”