Dine out for Down Syndrome was a huge success

August 13, 2013

This is a community that really responds to a need.

This is what the managers and staff at Pizza Hut learned on a recent Monday night when they hosted a Dine Out for Down Syndrome night.

“I have never seen anything like this. I did not know the community here was as caring as this,” said David Turner, who has managed other Pizza Hut restaurants that hosted similar events, most recently in Hillsville, Va.

When Pizza Hut was asked to support the inaugural Buddy Walk® of the High Country, they offered to host a Dine Out night.

Volunteer organizers of the event agreed to be the wait staff on a Monday night and in turn 10 percent of the sales and all the tips would be donated to the Buddy Walk® efforts. The Hillsville restaurant had done this on a regular basis and both the restaurant and the benefit non-profit agency profited.

Managers David Turner and Ken Toliver were eager to see if it would work here in the Jefferson restaurant and the Buddy Walk® organizers were happy to get the word out about the upcoming event. It was an overwhelming success. Over $1,700 was raised between 4-9 p.m. There was a line out the door for a portion of the time and the restaurant had a hard time keeping up with the orders.

“I was surprised at the number of people who turned out and the patience people had when we had a hard time serving them because we had run out of space or food. It was great to see so many people there supporting the cause, people not personally touched by Down syndrome but supportive of those in the community that are,” said Jessica Carter, director of Generations Inter-Generational Day care program.

“The regular staff of the restaurant, from the cooks to the regular servers and the dishwashers, were also extremely welcoming and friendly and contributed in a big way to the success of the evening,” said Carter.

The Buddy Walk® of the High Country being organized is one of many walks throughout the country. The concept was established by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to celebrate Down syndrome awareness and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

It raises funds locally and nationally to for advocacy and public awareness programs. It also strives to enhance the position of the Down syndrome community, enabling us to positively influence local and national policy and practice.

This local effort has come together after several community members attended the Buddy walk of the Piedmont in October 2012. Ashe Services for the Aging has taken a lead in the planning with help from Kristi Lewis and Melissa Lewis, both parents of children with Down syndrome, and Parent to Parent Family Support Network.

On Sept. 21, 2013, hundreds of families, friends and supporters from across the High Country will gather at Ashe County High School celebrate the many abilities of individuals with Down syndrome.

At the Buddy Walk® participants will join together for a one-mile walk, enjoy food and entertainment, compete for raffle prizes and gain information about Down syndrome and resources available in the community.

People interested in forming a team or registering to walk can go to to register or call Ashe Services for Aging at 246-2461. There has already been wonderful support from local businesses agreeing to be sponsors but there is still plenty of opportunity for others to be involved.

As of now G.E. Aviation is a Buddy Sponsor; Miller Insurance, RDR Kennels, A.E.V., Mount Jefferson Family Medicine, Jones Hardwood Floors and Forest Ridge Assisted Living are Friend Sponsors; while Warrensville Drug and Beaver Creek Baptist Church and United Chemi-Con are Supporting Sponsors.

The local funds will be used for local families to have better access to things such as orthotics, summer experiences, and other difficult-to-access services.