Down Syndrome Day walk draws 620

The 2.2km buddy walk yesterday began from Dhoby Ghaut Green, which was also the site of a carnival. Down syndrome affects about one in 800 babies worldwide.
The 2.2km buddy walk yesterday began from Dhoby Ghaut Green, which was also the site of a carnival. Down syndrome affects about one in 800 babies worldwide.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

About 620 people set off from Dhoby Ghaut Green for the 2017 World Down Syndrome Day buddy walk yesterday at 8am.

Flagged off by Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, the group began the 2.2km walk that marked the beginning of the day's festivities. About 150 of the participants were people with the syndrome and their family members.

The day, which included a carnival at the same place, was organised by the Down Syndrome Association (Singapore).

Mr Henry Tan, 55, and his wife Susan, 53, led their 14-year-old daughter Gabrielle, who has Down syndrome, on the walk.

He said he had been participating in the association's events with his family for years. He and his wife have spent more than $150,000 on surgery, checkups and speech therapy for Gabrielle.

Mr Tan, who retired to take care of his daughter full-time, hopes such events will help raise more awareness and tackle misconceptions the public may have of those with the condition.

Throughout the interview, Gabrielle smiled while keeping her focus on her mother.

"We have taught her to never talk to strangers, especially not to men because she's a girl," Mr Tan said with a smile. "But she's happy."

Aikido instructor Patrick Chan, 57, turned up with his wife and four sons. Two of the boys have Down syndrome. Mr Chan said he is keen to promote inclusivity within the community. "I hope...that society will have more acceptance of children with special needs."

Sean, 26, and Enoch, 24, walked with their parents before Sean displayed his skills in aikido at the carnival, together with two of his brothers . He has a black belt in the Japanese martial art.

World Down Syndrome Day falls on Tuesday and yesterday's festivities here drew about 2,000 people.

Globally, the condition affects about one in every 800 babies.

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Watch the buddy walk group set off. http://str.sg/47YT

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Down Syndrome Day walk draws 620'. Print Edition | Subscribe