22nd Annual Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Buddy Walk

22nd Annual Gulf Coast Down Syndrome Buddy Walk

Whether you have Down syndrome, know someone who does, or just want to show your support, you can always volunteer or form a team through the Down Syndrome Society’s Coastal Buddy Walk.

Jacob Neumann’s family participated in their first Buddy Walk Saturday in Gulfport. They have been part of the program for two years, but due to COVID, they have only experienced it from the car parade. Maureen Neumann said: “We are really excited to be back on the walk. It’s always such a fun event. I mean, as you can see, there are so many people, there is music, people playing music, hanging out. They come to raise awareness, and awareness brings inclusion in our community, and that’s what we need.”

Riley McIlwain started the Buddy Walk to help their son, who has Down syndrome, and others like him feel included and part of something special in the community.

Riley and his wife founded the organization 22 years ago. He is pleased that organizations have grown to support children with Down syndrome, giving them lots of places to join and things to do. “My son is 39 years old and brings me joy every day. You won’t believe how great it is to have a person with Down syndrome in your family. He attends two or three summer camps every year. We have another program in Jackson County called the Dream Program. There are two to three activities every week.”

The Neuman family couldn’t agree more with how much joy Jacob brings to their family and to other people. David Neumann said: “He’s like a little mayor. He greets everyone. He is always friendly. He is so open. He just has a big personality and he’s young. I mean, he’s not even three years old yet, but you can tell he’s going to do great things.”

To sign up for next year’s Buddy Walk, go to

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