Over a dozen Shield’s Valley High School athletes showed up Saturday, September 23 to
the 13th annual Buddy Walk, in Bozeman, to support one special young lady, Izzy Risteau.
Izzy is an eighth grader at Shields Valley Middle School, and a participant in the Buddy Walk. The event participants, along with supporters, will go on a 1 mile walk around the Gallatin Regional Park Dinosaur Playground to celebrate individuals with Down Syndrome, promoting acceptance and inclusion.
Shannon Vincent, a key supporter of the Shields Valley Booster Club, was scrolling through Facebook when she came across a post by Jeanne Risteau about Jeanne’s daughter, Izzy. Vincent said that the post was requesting support for Izzy’s participation in the Buddy Walk, and approached football coach Jacob Fisher. Shields Valley High School asked to help get the varsity football team involved in going to Bozeman to cheer for Izzy, and they made it happen.
Played a football game in Bridger, south of Laurel, and the conditions were pretty brutal and Saturday morning we went over to the Gallatin Regional and supported Izzy along with a lot of the variety volleyball players.
Fifteen students plus Izzy. Izzy Risteau eighth grader shields valley junior high. Buddy Walk
What started with five families in Bozeman with children with Down-syndrome turned into a community event grew from there. The DREAM (Down-syndrome Research Education Advocacy in Montana) team was developed to help people with Down-syndrome in the community find connections, support, housing, work and the opportunity to live their best lives.
“We have a really small school, probably less 100 kids,” said Vincent. “Our group was the largest support group there for one of the buddies, which felt really good coming from a small town over the mountain.”
According to Vincent, Izzy’s mother and brother were there as well and Izzy was just so happy about the support she received.
“The whole thing just felt joyous. They had pizza, music and festivities, water, etc. Along the walk there was a special poster with information for each child participating as a buddy as you walked along the route around the dinosaur playground.”
After the walk was over athletes and guests enjoyed Dominoes pizza and snack packs and variety of things to eat and drink.
“These are varsity athletes are used to being seen and known and this time they came and it wasn’t even about them, and they totally had a great time and being around Izzy is infectious,” said Vincent. “She(Izzy) was so happy about the support. She made a sign with her name and the kids all signed it and she was so proud of it, petting it and showing it to everyone.”
Vincent said that the event was “an opportunity for everyone to step up and show our peers we care about them.”
The event included support from some fun characters, from Elsa to R2D2 and mascots from the local Gallatin area high schools. Joe’s Mobile DJ service provided the music, while MSU’s mascot, Champ and the Montana State University Spirit Squad were on site as well.
“It’s really important to integrate these kids into the community,” Vincent said.
Vincent expressed that she is hopeful to promote a larger presence for this event in Park County and challenges the other schools and students to do the same. Perhaps a local Buddy Walk could be something of interest in Park County as well: Vincent said that she feels there is a large enough population of children/families with Down-syndrome that it would make sense.
If you’d like to donate to the Buddy Walk follow this link:
The organization can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mtdreamers/