DSAPI, SM Cares celebrate Down Syndrome Consciousness Month with the first virtual Happy Walk

February 20, 2021

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless lives were forever changed, especially those of children with Down syndrome and their parents. Two of such families are Raquel and Jesse Uy and their daughter, Rylee, and Nill and Alex Arroyo, and their daughter Aria, whose routines were heavily disrupted by the unprecedented health crisis.

"Rylee loves to go out and interact with others, so when I told her that we can't go out of the house, for the time being, she wasn't happy about it. Getting accustomed to her new routine was also a challenge, for example with her online classes where it was hard for her to focus," said Raquel.

The Uy Family. (L-R) Raquel, Ravi, Rylee, and Jesse


Fortunately, Rylee and Aria got back in the groove eventually with the help of the free resources provided by the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines Inc. (DSAPI).

"The most helpful of these resources for us was the early intervention, which covers everything parents like us might need in order to ensure that all the needs of our children are addressed, especially during their formative years," said Alex.

"They also group you with parents of children around the same age as your child, so you can share your learnings with each other, which is important as most children with Down syndrome have age-specific needs," said Nill.


The Arroyo Family: (L-R) Aniela, Alexandra, Ariana, and Nill

As an organization dedicated to helping parents in raising family members with Down syndrome, DSAPI has been implementing various initiatives toward this purpose, and the highlight of these initiatives is Happy Walk, held every February in celebration of the National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.

"We really prepare for this and the parents and families look forward to it because the character of Happy Walk is so family-oriented," said Agnes Lapeña, a parent member of DSAPI.

Held in partnership with SM Cares, the event gathers persons with Down Syndrome and their families into a day-long event filled with fun activities and entertainment. For this year, the event will be held online for the first time to ensure the safety of participants.

DSAPI Chairman Elmer Lapeña thanked SM Cares for continuously supporting their Happy Walk and other initiatives. “We will have messages from special guests and some performances that will be aired live through Facebook and on Zoom,” said Mr. Lapeña. “We’re really excited. One thing for sure is that the presence of the entire world on social media has increased significantly, and that is something we wish to ride on.”

The Lapeña Family: (L-R) Seated: Elmer, and Jeremy; Standing: Penny, Agnes, and Sarah

“Despite the restrictions, we remain committed to our partnership with DSAPI, and to other PWD organizations, in helping create more inclusive societies for everyone. We are very happy to continue celebrating Down Syndrome Month through these virtual events,” said Engr. Bien C. Mateo, SM SVP Operations and Head of SM Cares Program on PWDs.

SM Cares’ other initiatives for persons with disabilities include its regular sensitivity training for mall frontliners on handling customers with special needs; Emergency preparedness forum for PWDs and Senior Citizens; and the annual Angels Walk celebrations for Autism consciousness, to name a few. These initiatives support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10: “Reduced inequalities.”

The Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Inc. (DSAPI) is a non-stock, non-profit, volunteer-based organization, founded in 1992 by a group of parents and medical professionals.

DSAPI promotes acceptance and inclusion by all sectors of society opening up more opportunities for persons with Down Syndrome, and provides various programs and projects including Early Intervention and Outreach Seminars, Communication and Sexuality Seminars, Medical Conventions, Free Clinics among others. To know more about DSAPI, you may contact them on the 3rd Floor, 295 Fortress Hill Building, Shaw Boulevard, Brgy. Hagdan Bato Libis, Mandaluyong City, with Tel./Fax Nos.: + 63 (2) 8895-9642 and E-mail: dsapi@hotmail.com.

SM Cares is the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of SM Supermalls, with programs to support communities and promote social inclusion and care for the environment. Its CSR advocacies include Programs for the Environment, Persons with Disabilities, Women & Breastfeeding Mothers, Children & Youth, Senior Citizens, and the creation of bike-friendly SM Malls across the country.

To know more about SM Cares, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialSMCares/.