Now in its 22nd year, the Step Up for Down Syndrome fundraiser and celebration has grown from only a handful of participants to the largest Down syndrome awareness event in Michigan. On Saturday, September 22nd, 1,255 walkers gathered at Fifth Third Ballpark to celebrate their loved ones with Down syndrome and support DSAWM. Together, our walkers, donors, and sponsors helped us hit a home run and raise $138,000 to fund the many programs and services that DSAWM offers our members.
Teamwork is an important part of Step Up and while we certainly all work towards the same goal, walkers are encouraged to create their own teams for some friendly fundraising competition. Leading up to the big day, incentives are offered to keep teams working towards the coveted title of Top Fundraising Team. This team receives special recognition on event day, will have their loved one with Down syndrome featured on a billboard, and takes home the Step Up trophy. DSAWM has seen some close races to the number one spot over the past few years and 2018 was no exception. After weeks bouncing between third and fourth place, Kynsee’s Krew submitted one last donation minutes before the competition closed, propelling themselves to the top of the leader board. Those familiar with Kynsee’s Krew know that this win was a big deal. Over the past few years, Kynsee’s parents Kevin and Kristi Wadkins have kicked their fundraising efforts into over-drive. We sat down to talk with Kevin about his team’s grassroots approach to fundraising and what Step Up means to his family.
When did you first participate in Step Up and why?
My family was registered to walk in 2012, but that year it was cancelled because of weather, so our first official walk was 2013. As new parents, my wife and I wanted to get involved with the DSAWM and learn how special our kiddos are. We had no idea what to expect as neither one of us had any family members with Down syndrome.
What did your first year of fundraising look like and how does that compare to this year of fundraising?
Our first couple years of fundraising were nothing compared to the past three years. The first few were basically just team registrants and a few donations from family and friends. The past three years, though, have been pretty busy. We finished in second place for fundraising in both 2016 and 2017. After that, I said I was after the number one spot. We started fundraising for this year’s event the evening of the 2017 walk. We always have a celebration after the walk and last year sold 50/50 tickets to kick-off our fundraising. I have been collecting returnables all year. We had a canvas painting party and Euchre party. We made planter boxes and birdhouses from old barnwood that was donated by friends of ours. Some of our other friends had a bake sale. We had a golf outing. The Ionia Farm Power Club donated money to us from their annual pie auction. We sold t-shirts. Friends had a family garage sale and donated a percentage of their sales to us. 2018 was very busy!
When and how did you start getting your community involved?
Over the past three years our community has been really supportive. We have had two local restaurants have Kynsee Krew fundraiser days where a percentage of their sales supports our team. Mostly it is just by word of mouth. We also have a lot of support from friends and family. Our friends get their friends involved and it turns into one big family.
Do you see a lot of familiar faces returning every year to support Kynsee’s Krew? What do you think keeps them coming back?
We do see a lot of returning supporters every year. They see how much their support means to our family and I think they see how hard we work to help support the DSAWM.
You finally won the Step Up trophy this year! What does that mean to your family?
It means so much to us. We have been so close the previous two years and we finally did it. All the hard work and dedication has finally paid off.
Most important question: Where will you display the trophy?
It is proudly displayed on a shelf at our house so everyone can see it.
What would you like new families joining the DSA to know about Step Up and the DSAWM community?
Step Up is a great way to help raise awareness and funding for the DSAWM community. To be involved and see how many people come out to support the DSAWM is amazing. There are so many different resources for new families through the DSAWM. It’s a great community to be involved and a great way to meet other families raising kids with Down syndrome. There is so much help and support from the organization and that is why we are so grateful to be a part of this great community.
Next year’s Step Up for Down Syndrome will be Saturday, September 21, 2019. We will be returning to Fifth Third Ballpark and look forward to turning it up to 11 with our theme “Rockin’ an Extra Chromosome!” We can’t wait to see you there.
Photos courtesy of Alyssa Eckel-Martin.