Down Syndrome community runs apart in self-isolation-friendly twist on fundraiser

Event's goal is to raise $140,000

The COVID-19 pandemic has been really hard on Chris Sayer.

The 26-year-old Port Moody resident likes to call himself a “people person,” and he’s missing his people.

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Sunday, though, Sayer will be doing something to support people. 

The ambassador for the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and his mom, Shawn, will walk and run about five kilometres from their home in the Glenayre neighbourhood to the Burnaby Mountain golf course to help raise money for the organization that offers programs and resources for people with Down Syndrome and their families.

The Run Apart for Down Syndrome event is a self-isolation-friendly variation on DSRF’s major annual fundraiser, Run Up for Down, that used to be held at the top of Burnaby Mountain but recently moved to Swangard Stadium.

Instead of running laps en masse around the track or along a five kilometre circuit through Burnaby’s Central Park, participants can hit the treadmill, stroll hundreds of laps around their living room, walk around the block in their neighbourhood or go for a hike in the woods. Sharing a photo or video of their effort online makes them eligible for prizes like gift cards and tickets to a Vancouver Canadians baseball game.

Sayer, who’s been participating in the event for “seven or eight years,” said he’s been getting ready for his effort by taking nightly speed walks around his neighbourhood, riding his exercise bike and keeping up with his online Taekwondo sessions. But he admitted he’s going to miss the social aspect, catching up with friends and colleagues.

In his role as a DSRF ambassador, Sayer gets to put on his best suit and attend receptions, sponsor events and cheque presentations, meeting new people and sharing his story.

“I like the attention and getting dressed up,” he said.

But those events have been absent from his routine for almost three months now. He’s also missing his friends at yoga and Bollywood dancing classes he takes at DSRF, as well as his teammates in curling and baseball he plays in Special Olympics.

“I like being social,” he said. “I like the chatting, finding out what’s going on.”

Travel restrictions to discourage the spread of the respiratory illness also means the annual family camping trip that draws up to 100 relatives to a site near Oliver is also off the summer schedule.

Sayer said he can’t wait for life to return to its normal routines, so he can get a haircut or go to a movie and head down to the Port Moody Legion for a game of pool along with beer and dinner with his friends.

“The most important part is being social,” he said.

• The goal for this year’s Run Apart for Down is $140,000. To learn more, or register to participate, go to dsrf.org/runapart.

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