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Tuesday, 26 October 2021
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Children with Downs Syndrome aim to save their COVID-hit charity

A group of fifteen determined young children, who began an epic challenge to complete a 300-mile journey between them just 10 days ago, have already reached the halfway mark and have raised over £30,000, smashing their original fundraising target.  

The children, all of whom have Down’s Syndrome, are walking, running, scooting, cycling and swimming, to cover the equivalent distance from Land’s End to Peckham in south London, in a virtual challenge. The story, which has caught the nation’s heart and been shared extensively on social media has also garnered support from MPs across London.

The Down’s South London KIDS WALK 300 challenge is raising money for Down’s South London (DSL), a small charity based in Peckham, to replace more than £50,000 of lost income that the charity has suffered this year due to the pandemic. The service offered free to families, is paid for by voluntary donations and through a range of fundraising initiatives by DSL’s trustees, families, their friends and supporters.

For some of the children, the challenge, although tough, has brought an opportunity to learn new skills.

Stacey McDermott, mother of 2-year-old Olive James said:

“Olive’s greatest challenge has always been her gross motor skills – she struggles to bear weight through her legs and needs a lot of support to stand. We thought we’d be doing a lot of bum shuffling to get her distance in but actually, since starting this challenge, it’s like something has clicked and she is really motivated to walk and we’re seeing improvement every day – we are over the moon with how well she is doing.”

Ilia Mazzarella, mother of 5-year-old Imany Choukr said:

“Imany is getting up early so she can walk to school when we’d normally use the buggy. While walking, we practice our therapy activities, for example, ‘Name 5 things that are yellow or fast…’ and she’s even mastered walking with an umbrella in the last week which takes a lot of coordination!”

Chair of Down’s South London Gün Akyuz said:

“We know how important DSL’s therapy services are to our families – after all, we first came about because no other organisations provide the sort of comprehensive therapy we offer. To lose it would be a massive blow to those families. Which is why DSL’s trustees are incredibly proud of the 15 children and their families who have stepped into the breach, as our donations dramatically declined this year, and are literally leading the way with this inspired new fundraising challenge. I’m simply amazed by what they’ve already achieved after just 10 days ‘on the road’. Not only does it demonstrate how passionate they are about their therapy but also their determination to ensure it’ll be there for them next year and other new families in the future.”

All the children participating in the challenge are either current or former recipients of DSL’s therapy services, which provide a unique package of early intervention speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational/sensory therapy, delivered by a team of highly skilled therapists with specialist knowledge of how young children with Down’s Syndrome develop.

This physical challenge is particularly demanding as children with Down’s Syndrome typically have some level of hypotonia, or low muscle tone, which for many means it has taken longer to learn to walk than it would for a typically developing child.

The determined fundraisers are (in age order): Leila (9), Theodora (6), Tristan (5), Imany (5), Elijah (5), Beth (5), Emma (5), Eugene (5), Elliott (4), Orla (4), Zephy (3), Lucy (3), Ned (3), Mara (2) and Olive (2).

The group are sharing their progress on Facebook and Instagram via @downssouthlondon and on Twitter via @DownsSouthLDN. Donations can be made via the team’s Virgin Money Giving page.

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