RUSTON, La. (KTVE/KARD) — October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and Discovering Downs of Northeast Louisiana hosted its 1st Annual Buddy Walk at Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston on Saturday 21.

Attendee and mother of 2-year-old Graham, Laura Hogan Katzenmeyer says the event was a great turn out.

“Looking across and seeing the kids smiling, and having fun and feeling special, it made it all worth it.”

The event focuses on raising awareness for those with special needs and their families.

“People who may not be interactive with people with down syndrome can come out and enjoy a fun carnival, have a great meal, and interact with someone who has down syndrome, and see a little bit about what makes them special. That is what really makes it very special for me,” explained Hogan Katzenmeyer.

It’s the biggest national fundraiser for the down syndrome society. All proceeds will go towards new resources for people with down syndrome.

“Big dreams. Long term goals of creating a center where they can get different therapies, such as physical therapy, and occupational therapy where they can learn job skills. To provide something for the community, not just from a young age but all the way through adulthood.”

Discovering Downs of Northeast Louisiana embraces families like Laura and Alan Katzenmeyer. their son, graham, was diagnosed with down syndrome before he was born. Laura says the love and support of the community have been life-changing.

“We were praying that Graham would be taking his first steps.”

“I’m just overwhelmed. We want to kind of replace what could be a scary first reaction with community and say, we got you. You are going to be good, and it is going to be beautiful.

Discovering Downs of Northeast Louisiana is expecting to host another event in the next few weeks.