• Buddy Walk draws thousands to Jacksonville Beach

    By: Brittney Donovan

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After weather caused organizers to reschedule, Sunday shaped up to be a beautiful day for the Buddy Walk.

    More than 3,300 people registered for the event at Seawalk Pavilion at Jacksonville Beach.

    For Chelsea Cordona and her family, it was their first walk.

    “We had a birth diagnosis, we did not know that she was going to come out with down syndrome,” Cardona said of her 10-month-old baby girl, Phoebe.

    Her 5-year-old son had nicknamed Phoebe ‘Rocket’ while she was in her belly. The nickname stuck, and on Sunday they were surrounded by 100 ‘Rocketeers.’


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    They took to the beach with thousands of other kids and their families to support the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville.

    It’s an organization Cordona says helped her with many questions during her first few days with Phoebe.

    “Everything we needed to start our journey. What specialists we needed to see, therapies. They’ve encouraged us not to worry about her future,” Cardona said.

    The Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville serves more than 1,000 children and their families throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

    From help navigating challenges to fun sports and activities, they say the need is growing with the population. They launched a new initiative this fall, career training for ages 18 and up.

    “We’ll take them through different career tracks and kind of train them and have them get a feel for what they want to do out in the workforce,” Ashley Wilkinson with DSAJ said.

    Cardona says the organization’s support has helped her appreciate every moment with Phoebe.

    She says Phoebe’s uniqueness also taught her other children a valuable lesson – loving and accepting everyone regardless of their abilities.

    “It’s not scary. It’s new and it’s unfamiliar, but she’s really just a baby,” she said. “You just kind of learn to appreciate the time more, and the mile stones, they will come. They might come a little later, but they do come.”

    You can learn more about DSAJ on its website.

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