Boardwalk Buddy Walk is an international organization that was founded in 2006 by Dennis and Sharonlee Diehl. Sharonlee’s brother, David, was born with Down syndrome and the couple made it their mission to encourage the acceptance of people with the genetic disorder.
Thirteen self-advocates and 350 walkers took part in the first annual Buddy Walk in 2006. Now, in its 11th year, Boardwalk Buddy Walk raises upwards of $65,000 a year and boasts 2000 participants, including 83 self-advocates, 150 volunteers and 75 business sponsors.
The Buddy Walk is run solely by dedicated volunteers, like Michelle Hetherington, who started off stuffing letters six years ago and is now the executive director.
The Buddy Walk, which is held each October in Rehoboth Beach, may be the organization’s largest event, but it is certainly not its only one.Local businesses have gotten in on the action and restaurants, such as The Cultured Pearl, Pig + Fish, Dos Locos, and Henlopen City Oyster House host a handful of events they call “Dining with Down syndrome” where they donate 10 to 15 percent of a nights sales to the organization.
The Board Walk Buddy Walk Organization also hosts a Buddy Bingo Night each spring team up with Best Buddies Delaware for an annual Dewey Beach 5K Buddy Run, which just took place Aug. 7. The money from every event goes to supporting local organizations, such as the Dewey Beach Lions Club, which teaches cooking skills to people with Down syndrome.
This year’s Boardwalk Buddy Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk & Bandstand. Walk time is at 9 a.m. To register for the walk, click here.