Washington, DC NDSS/ DSAIA conference recap
During the last week of February, SMILE Founder Nina Fuller and I (Executive Director Nikki Davis) made our annual trip to the conferences put on by two of the national organizations that we are affiliated with. Step 1 was the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Buddy Walk Conference. There we learned how to improve the Buddy Walk event that we put on for our community and the Tri-State area. We put on an amazing event, but there is always room for improvement when it comes to the logistics of the walk and the advocating that it promotes for our loved ones with Down syndrome. Step 2 was the Buddy Walk on Washington. During the NDSS Buddy Walk® on Washington, advocates meet with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to advance education, research and healthcare for people with Down syndrome. (See more at: http://www.ndss.org/Advocacy/Advocacy-Programs/Buddy-Walk-on-Washington/#sthash.IcduBAHi.dpuf ). To prepare, we participated in training. We then helped celebrate the Champions of Change (an award I was honored to receive last year). The next day, we headed to the hill. First we celebrated the government leaders who have made a difference in the Down syndrome community. Then the Indiana delegation that we were with visited Senator Coats, Senator Donnelly, Congressman Bucshon and Congressman Young (other IN delegates also visited representatives from their specific district). Step 3: the following day, we started our Down Syndrome Affiliates In Action (DSAIA) conference where Down syndrome non-profit leaders from around the country participated in workshop and general sessions to find out the latest information on Down syndrome research, technology, enrichment opportunities and fundraising. During this time, I had the privilege of teaching two of those workshops, and I shared with my colleagues information our SMILE Art Smart program as well as our Trucks & Heroes event. Today is our final day of the event, and before we jump into our last sessions, we had the honor of being presented two peer recognition awards in outdoor advertising (our Buddy Walk Billboard) and for an event within a program (our Christmas workshop within our Art Smart program). This year has been again an eye opening, productive, educational, and worthwhile adventure, and Nina and I can’t wait to return back to Evansville to educate and serve our SMILE families.