Jason and Janelle Tucker are all smiles with their son, Logan, at last year’s Fun Run and Buddy Walk event.

By Karin Davis-Thompson

Families Inspiring, Educating & Networking for Down Syndrome (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) will host its fourth annual Fun Run and Buddy Walk on Saturday, October 26 at Raymond James Stadium.

The 3.21K Fun Run is a timed race around the stadium with age division awards. The Buddy Walk is in support of a team’s favorite buddy or individual with special needs. The top three Buddy Run/Walk teams will receive a plaque and their very own private tent with a buddy butler and a cooler filled with treats.

Proceeds from the event benefit F.R.I.E.N.D.S., an organization dedicated to celebrating and advocating for individuals with special needs, especially those with Down syndrome.

Ann Foyt, president of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., said this year it wants to raise money to build its own community facility to continue supporting individuals with special needs. Right now, when the organization hosts events, it must use partner facilities for its activities, which include social activities for children ages 6-14 and a dance each quarter for individuals 15 and up.

“We are hoping to raise at least $100,000 this year,” Foyt said. “It will allow us to host our own events and expand the services we offer to people with special needs.”

Along with the walk, the day will include a train ride, petting zoo, face painting, bouncy houses and slides. Panera Bread, Gourmet Deli and Dunkin’ will provide food and D.J. Chuck Eckhart and M.C. Julian McKenna are also back for another year.

“It’s going to be a family day, that’s what we are going for,” said Foyt, a registered nurse who has a son with Down syndrome.

The organization is also looking for vendors for the event, especially nonprofit organizations with resources for the special needs community.

Foyt said volunteers are always welcome to help promote the event and assist in making sure the day runs smoothly. Each volunteer will receive a walk T-shirt and a Down syndrome awareness wristband.

The 3.21K Fun Run will take place from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. with the Buddy Walk beginning immediately afterward. Although attendees can register on the day of the event, early registration has already begun.

For more information on how you can register or to volunteer, become a vendor or create a buddy team, contact F.R.I.E.N.D.S. at 245-2782 or visit the group’s website at www.friendssupport.org.