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Mena, Arkansas, News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Second Annual Down Syndrome 5k Run & Walk

By Ethan Nahté


Mena’s Second Annual Down Syndrome 5k Run & Walk hopes to repeat last year’s success, hopefully with better weather this year. Last year was cold and saw some rain, yet more than 70 people showed up to support the cause and help raise funds for adaptive playground equipment to be purchased for both Louise Durham and Holly Harshman Elementary Schools. The parents, not the schools, put this together last year and raised over $9,000 to purchase equipment that could be utilized by children in wheelchairs, for instance.

World Down Syndrome Day is designated as March 21 each year, a day to come together to celebrate Down syndrome and raise awareness according to the National Down syndrome Society (NDSS). Typically, the nucleus of each cell in our genetic make-up is 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. According to the CDC, approximately one in every 772 babies in the United Sates is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common chromosomal condition. Approximately 5,100 babies with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year. The cause of the condition is still unknown.

This year, Mena’s event will be held on Saturday, March 23. It will start at 10 a.m. at The Crossing. In honor of chromosome 21, the registration is $21 per person. That fee also includes a free snack and drink provided by Union Bank.

First place will be a six-month membership to Non-Stop Fitness. Second place will be a gift basket from The Shop at the Foot of the Hill.

All proceeds will go to the L.E.A.F. program, an organization that exists to help meet the most basic needs of those who are truly deserving of assistance. L.E.A.F. (Let’s Elevate all Families) came together after seeing and understanding that there are countless children and families in our own community who are trying but still barely making it from day to day. Local educators and administrators are the eyes and ears to help initially identify the most pressing needs.

Their goal is to identify and help children in our schools and, when possible, their families with things they need to be safer, healthier, and hopefully happier. Things such as a warm coat, shoes that fit, basic hygiene items, and even food and shelter for those most in need.

L.E.A.F. is a registered 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible. There are no compensated employees and 100% of every monetary and tangible gift will be provided to children and families who need it most. There is dual control of all funds and L.E.A.F. finances will be monitored by a certified public accountant.

For questions regarding the 5k or L.E.A.F., text or call Shanda Craig at 479-216-0160. She is the Mena High School Behavioral Interventionist, Alternative Learning Assistant Director, and the District Family and Community Engagement Coordinator for Mena Public Schools. She and Mandy Rowe were organizers of last year’s inaugural event. It’s a cause close to both women as they each have a child with Down syndrome.

But the playground equipment they raised funds for in 2023 would be beneficial to so many children who typically can’t play on the school playground equipment. Here’s your chance to help.

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