The annual Buddy Walk is a national event established in 1995 to promote inclusion and awareness. It's raised more than $15 million.
DALTON, Mass. — For the 17th year, the Berkshire County Arc's Down Syndrome Family Group and its allies took over Main Street for the annual Buddy Walk.
Hundreds of people in maroon walk T-shirts gathered at Craneville School for a festive event that includes the signature walk through downtown, music, food and games on school's playground.
The walk was one of two in Massachusetts (the other is in Wakefield next Sunday) and dozens across the country under the auspices of the National Down Syndrome Society, which started the program in 1995.
The goals of the walk are three-fold: to celebrate Down syndrome awareness, to educate the general public and to advocate on behalf of the 5,100 Americans born with Down syndrome each year.
Locally, BCArc is the lead agency serving Berkshire County residents with developmental disabilities, brain injuries and autism and their families.
A longtime advocate of the agency and its clients is state Sen. Paul Mark, D-Peru, a member of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and one of several public officials to participate in Saturday's walk.
Mark was back in his district after joining an overwhelming majority in both houses of the Legislature to pass a $1 billion tax relief measure earlier in the week.
On Saturday, he said there is no concern that the tax cuts to be phased in over several years will negatively impact social service agencies, like BCArc, that rely on state funding and have struggled to address staff salary needs even before this year's tax relief push.
"Overall, everything we're hearing is that this [tax cut] is safe, that we're on a good pace of revenue growth," Mark said. "And the cuts and the [tax] credits that are happening aren't going to hamper that, that they're in line with what we think is going to keep our state growing in a responsible manner.
"We have an $8 billion rainy day fund that we're sitting on, and also the cuts are going to be phased in."
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