ZUNI, NM (Oct. 17, 2022) — The Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is celebrating the spirit of the season in more ways than one. At 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, the nonprofit organization will host a Buddy Walk/Zumba for the Zuni community at its Ho’n A:wan Park, followed by a special “Turf or Treat” event.

Not only will the afternoon provide a festive atmosphere prior to the Halloween holiday, it also is designed to commemorate Down Syndrome Awareness Month. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed a resolution giving October this special designation, which has been acknowledged every year for nearly four decades.

“On Oct. 30, we will celebrate our relatives with Down Syndrome, their uniqueness, and their accomplishments,” said Tahlia Natachu, ZYEP’s executive director. “We also want to promote the acceptance of these individuals, and show their families that we support them. Everyone in our community deserves to be valued.”

Food Sovereignty Leader Kenzi Bowekaty agreed, observing, “The Buddy Walk is so much more than just a walk. It’s an opportunity to come together as a community while raising awareness and promoting inclusion for people with Down Syndrome.”

Bowekaty’s 2-year-old son, Carter, has Down Syndrome. She said that raising awareness for this and other disabilities helps people realize how many uniquely abled people live in their communities, and how they can come together to nurture them.

“One in 700 babies is born with DS, so those of us who are blessed with a special baby like ours consider ourselves ‘The Lucky Few,’” Bowekaty said. “My mindset has always been that we are all different, with unique abilities and needs. Everyone is born with a purpose, and a right to be accepted and loved. We all can be aware of Down Syndrome, but it’s when we can express acceptance that we truly start making a difference. We want those joining us at the 2022 Buddy Walk to know that in a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Community members will be able to participate in ZYEP’s Buddy Walk or Zumba session starting at 3 p.m. Afterward, everyone will come together for the Halloween-themed “Turf or Treat” in the park.

“We’ve invited tribal programs and community partners to join us for the afternoon, and bring their canopies, tables and chairs,” said Tara Wolfe, ZYEP’s program manager. “Families can visit the different booths, which will offer healthy treats as well as program information, and we’re encouraging everyone to wear family-friendly costumes!”

Registration is still open for the Buddy Walk/Zumba at https://forms.gle/PN6qjoj9uGrCJv5e9; the first 150 people to register will receive a T-shirt. Tribal programs and community partners can sign up for booth space at https://forms.gle/QLzTx6Uz8jUgryjt6.

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.