Everybody needs to feel like a somebody, and everybody needs a buddy! Each September for the past 10 years, the Pasco High School cheerleaders make it their goal to raise money and awareness for individuals with Down syndrome at the annual “Buddy Walk” in Tri Cities, Washington. People come from all over the state to show their support and participate in the one-mile walk, put on by the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia. This event aims to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion. It also raises money for the association, which offers programs such as lecture series, workshops and monthly events for kids, siblings, parents and friends.

The Pasco cheerleaders are invited to volunteer every year and are actively involved in all of the festivities! From helping kids build toy boats at the craft booth, painting their faces to look like Spiderman, and even dancing on stage with the children before the walk begins, the energy that the cheer team brings is a significant part of the event. Head coach Melissa Wright says, “I feel like it’s important to teach our young people to give back to our community. In doing so, we raise big hearted and caring kiddos that then turn into big hearted and caring adults.”

The highlight for the cheerleaders every year is when they actually get to participate in the walk with the children. Cheerleaders walk side-by-side with families who have a child with Down syndrome and cheer them on the whole way. At the finish line, the cheer team celebrates each child as they finish the walk by making a tunnel and handing out flowers to everyone who participated. The smiles and pure joy that the children feel when crossing the finish line is an indescribable experience.

Promoting a heightened awareness and acceptance of individuals with Down syndrome is in the mission statement for the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia, and the Pasco cheerleaders are honored to do their part in fostering this mission throughout their community. Thank you, Pasco High School, for being the reason why America Needs Cheerleaders!