Photo Gallery | 10th annual Buddy Walk of the Berkshires
DALTON — There is always an enormous amount of love and support at the annual Buddy Walk, the principal community event and fundraiser for Berkshire County ARC.
This year, there was a conspicuous display of sportsmanship.
The Wahconah and Westfield High School girls' soccer teams joined together and participated in this year's Buddy Walk about an hour before they were to meet on the field.
This year, according to longtime organizer Aaron Robb, principal of Wahconah Regional High School, there were more than 1,100 people participating in the one-mile walk. The walk begins and ends at the Craneville Elementary School.
"This event means a lot to families here and outside the Berkshires," said Kenneth Singer, president and CEO of Berkshire County Arc, a nonprofit organization that offers a broad range of community services to individuals with developmental disabilities, brain injuries and autism.
Berkshire County Arc is one of the sponsors of the Buddy Walk, along with a host of local businesses, said Robb, who has organized local Buddy Walks for the past decade.
"We started 10 years ago with 500 people at Pine Grove Park," he recalled. "We now have more than 1,100."
Brittany Dorwin of North Adams, who was crowned Junior Miss Amazing Massachusetts last year, was one of the speakers at the event. Despite Down syndrome, Dorwin was an honor student at McCann Technical Vocational High School, from which she graduated in 2014.
She studied dance and drama, and was a cheerleader, "which was my favorite thing I've ever done."
"It's a beautiful day," she said to the crowd. "Let's go out and have fun."
The teaming up of Wahconah and Westfield girls came about because the walk coincided with the teams' game at Wahconah, according to Warrior athletic director Jared Shannon.
Shannon explained that many of the Wahconah players annually volunteer for the Buddy Walk. When they learned their game would happen the same time as the walk, "they asked me if I could call Westfield and push the game back."
"A lot of us have participated in previous Buddy Walks," said Wahconah captain Emmy Cote. "We didn't want to miss this year if we didn't have to."
So Shannon contacted Westfield High athletic director Eileen Flaherty. Far from balking, said Shannon, Flaherty asked if the girls on the Westfield team could participate.
"We said sure," said Shannon.
"One of the players on our team has Down syndrome," said Westfield girls' captain Katrina Avona. "We've participated in fundraisers in our town. We wanted to show our support."
"We're thrilled to be here," said Westfield High coach Keith Saltmarsh. "We were really pleased to be invited and I think it's great that we're participating."
"I've been associated with high school athletics for 20 years," said Robb, "and it's safe to say I've never seen this before."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.