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Sophomore Cheers for Down Syndrome Awareness

Tammy Gernser
Grace Gernser projected on a billboard in Times Square

On Saturday, September 9, above the hustle and bustle of Times Square, the face of Grace Gerenser, a San Marcos cheerleader, flashed on screens for Down syndrome awareness. It’s not every day that San Marcos is represented in such a big way. Grace was chosen to be in a video as part of the Buddy Walk in New York City to elevate the voices of the Down syndrome community.

“Since 1995, the Buddy Walk has been the premier advocacy event for Down syndrome in the United States,” said the Buddy Walk website. Buddy Walks are held all over the U.S. throughout the year, including one in Goleta that took place in June. Last weekend, the main Buddy Walk was held in New York. The walk was in Central Park, with a video presentation in Times Square. Sophomore Grace Gerenser, who is a member of the San Marcos cheer team, was chosen to represent her San Marcos community on the big screen in New York last Saturday, September 9th.

“My mom sent in photos of me for the Buddy Walk…I’m going to be a cheerleader there,” said Grace. 

In addition to cheer, Grace dances, models, acts, and advocates for people with disabilities. She stars in videos from Dhar Mann studios, which teach important lessons about bullying and inclusivity. Grace has also partnered with brands and uses her platform on social media for positive change. Her instagram, @thisisme.gracemarie, has almost 70,000 followers and her voice raises awareness for Down syndrome. When asked how she felt about being a part of the Buddy Walk, Grace said, “I’m excited.”

Grace was selected from over 2,400 photo entries to be a part of the Buddy Walk video, which consists of about 500 photos of people with Down syndrome. The video played on screens in Times Square and was live-streamed through Facebook. It is an hour long, and represents the diversity and unity of the Down syndrome community across America. The organization also raises funds to empower the Down syndrome community and help their voices to be heard.

This event was started by the National Down syndrome Society (NDSS) to elevate the voices of those with Down syndrome. The mission statement of the NDSS is, “[to empower] individuals with Down syndrome and their families by driving policy change, providing resources, engaging with local communities, and shifting public perceptions.” 

Down syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation that occurs when someone has part of or a full copy of chromosome 21. According to the CDC, Down syndrome affects approximately 1 in 772 people in the United States— about 51,000 babies per year, making it the most common chromosomal condition. People with Down syndrome face challenges the rest of us do not understand, but they are not defined by their condition. Every single person with Down syndrome is unique and has amazing value in their communities, which the NDSS brings awareness to. Despite its prevalence in our country, education about Down syndrome is severely lacking. These events remind people of the value of people with Down syndrome and celebrate their community. 

This was an amazing event and we are so proud that a Royal got to be a part of it. Be sure to congratulate Grace if you see her!

You can also visit to find out more about Down syndrome and ways to get involved and cheer Grace on at the next football game!

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About the Contributor
Natalie Anderson
Natalie Anderson, Staff Writer
Natalie is a sophomore at San Marcos and this is her first year as a writer for the Kings Page. She loves writing and is excited to be a part of journalism this year. Her favorite sections to write about are feature and lifestyle. Her favorite subjects are Math and French. In her free time, Natalie enjoys dance, reading, baking, and being with friends and family.
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