Channel 7 News at the Buddy Walk 2017

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Walk to raise Down syndrome awareness held in Sunrise

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) – A walk aiming to raise awareness of Down syndrome sent hundreds to Sunrise, Sunday morning.

The Buddy Walk took place at Markham Park in observance of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Organizers said it’s a great event for families. “This is our way of raising funds locally and nationally, and to celebrate all of our children and all of their successes,” said Diane De Braga, executive director of Buddy Walk. “[It allows] families to meet, get to know one another and network, and not feel you’re alone.”

Established in 1995, Buddy Walks around the country raise millions of dollars each year for Down syndrome services.

Copyright 2017 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Meet Joey from The Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization

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Register TODAY to be on Captain Lee’s FITTEAM at the Buddy Walk in Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida: October 15, 2017 – 8:30am. Register here to walk with Captain Lee: All funds and donations raised will support the Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization: Joining Captain Lee with be: • Olivia Dissman of Olivia’s Angels Foundation: • Garrett Holeve of Garrett’s Fight Foundation: Please join us for a lot of FUN and to raise funding and awareness for Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization – October 15, 2017 954-825-0400

John Tucker & Rachel Osterbach Born This Way Interview

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Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 11 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed and award-winning original docuseries Born This Way’s honors keep adding up – showing that disability is a winning theme. This series starring a cast with disabilities, which received six Emmy nominations this year, won two Emmy’s at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program – after bringing home the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show on A&E, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.

A Focus on Diverse Casting

Casting Director Sasha Alpert holding her Emmy
Born This Way Casting Director Sasha Alpert

Show creator Jonathan Murray, the innovator behind the first-ever reality-show, The Real World, and many other hit shows including Keeping Up with the Kardashians, said the cast members of Born This Way remind all of us that “every individual has something to contribute.”

“In thinking about the show, we wanted to focus on the ability within the disability and I think that is what is exciting to see,” said Murray. “We also are very proud of the fact that our cast is very diverse. Born This Way has a cast that includes people who are African American, Hispanic and Asian. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”

This is the first year the Television Academy presented an award for Casting for a Reality Program, which Sasha Alpert and Megan Sleeper won for Born This Way.

Bruce and Sean wearing tuxes, posing for the camera. Bruce holding an Emmy.
Cinematographer Bruce Ready with Born This Way Cast Member Sean McElwee

“Everyone experiences powerful stories,” Alpert said. “By not including a diverse group of people, we are limiting our ability to tell compelling stories. If we make television that doesn’t embrace the various populations around us, we limit the narratives we tell.”

Also during Saturday’s first half of the two-night Creative Arts Award presentation at the Microsoft Theater, Bruce Ready, Born This Way‘s cinematographer, took home the Outstanding Reality Cinematography Emmy. The awards on Saturday evening were presented for reality, documentary and animated programs.

Making More History

Born This Way cast members Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker made history when they became the first individuals with Down Syndrome to present at any major awards ceremony when they presented awards in three categories at the Creative Arts Emmys.

Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker posing in a gown and a tux
Born This Way‘s Rachel Osterbach and John Tucker

“Rachel and John graced the stage like true professionals to rousing applause,” said Gail Williamson, a talent agent who focuses on clients with disabilities at Kazarian, Measures, Ruskin and Associates Talent Agency. “When doctors told their parents about the diagnosis of Down syndrome and listed what they thought their children’s future would be like, they never thought to include they would be presenters at the Emmy Awards some day.”

“In an evening that emphasized ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity,’ it was powerful to have Rachel and John, who both have Down syndrome, included in the diverse group of award presenters,” Murray added.

RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has been honored to consult during the creation of Born This Way and congratulates the entire team for its hard work in achieving this continued recognition.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, RespectAbility’s president who herself has a disability and who knows what it means to raise a child with multiple disabilities, said: “I am thrilled that the Emmy’s see the value in showing real people with disabilities and their powerful lives on TV. For generations TV-viewers saw people with disabilities through the lens of the Jerry Lewis telethon. Though it was well intended, it showed people’s inabilities and used a lens of pity. Born This Way is empowering and uplifting. It shows, as one member of the cast frequently says, that the public should not ‘Limit me.’”

Increasing Disability Inclusion in Television

The Ruderman White Paper on Disability in Television shows that disability often is absent from mainstream film and television – both the depiction of and, even when a character has a disability, the actor often does not. According to the report, an actor pretending to have a disability plays more than 95 percent of characters with disabilities. Furthermore, according to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016 (up from 2.4 percent in 2015). None of the leading characters were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group or the LGBT community.

“By winning the Emmy for casting, A&E’s Born This Way has broken the glass ceiling for people with disabilities of all backgrounds,” Mizrahi added. “Programs like Born This Way that feature people with disabilities, or that tackle disability issues, in a positive light can be successful both critically and financially. Audiences want to see strong, capable role models with disabilities. By focusing on showing these young individuals’ everyday life choices regarding employment, living independently and dating, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.”

Murray agrees that shows like Born This Way and more diversity in Hollywood are good business.

“Hollywood has been really, really slow to recognize the diversity of this country,” he said. “I think it is catching up fast now. And I think it’s realizing that diversity is good business. I don’t think it’s necessarily because it is altruistic. I think they are recognizing that TV shows will do better if they reflect what the country is.”

According to the U.S. Census, one in five Americans has a disability. Currently 70 percent of working-age people with disabilities are not working – even though most of them want jobs and independence. The numbers are even worse for people with Down syndrome. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, there are more than 400,000 people with Down syndrome. Many studies show that people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, can work successfully and live relatively independently. The individuals on Born this Way prove that since several are productive employees and one is a business owner herself.

“We have a long way to go in how television shows people with disabilities,” Mizrahi said. “For almost five decades, the Jerry Lewis telethon stigmatized people with disabilities by showing what people with disabilities CAN’T do. Now is the time to show what people with disabilities CAN do.”

Recently, Born This Way was chosen as one of six honorees for the 2016 Television Academy Honors, an award that recognizes “television programming that inspires, informs and motivates.”

“By honoring and embracing diversity on television, Born This Way is uniquely redefining the art of honest storytelling and altering the way society views individuals with differences,” Elaine Fontain Bryant, EVP and Head of Programming for A&E said.

“What I would like to see is that more shows have a diversity to them where the diversity is not the point of the show,” Murray added. “I’d like to get beyond the labels to accurately reflect what is going on in our country today.”

Watch the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on FXX on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET before the highest-profile categories are awarded in a ceremony telecast live on CBS on Sunday, Sept. 17.


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Captain Lee, Star of Hit Reality Show “Below Deck” Leads Buddy Walk FITTEAM

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Captain Lee Rosbach Leads Buddy Walk FITTEAM on October 15 in Markham Park
Captain Lee, Star of Hit Reality Show “Below Deck” Hosts Kickoff with Families of
Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization to Announce Buddy Walk Team

Coral Springs, FL – September 5, 2017 – The Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization today announced Captain Lee Rosbach, from Bravo’s hit reality show Below Deck, will lead the Buddy Walk FITTEAM October 15, 2017 at 8:30am in Markham Park, Sunrise, Florida.

“We are delighted, honored, and grateful that Captain Lee will lead a team at the Buddy Walk and will walk alongside all of us October 15,” said Diane De Braga, Executive Director of Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization. “Having his celebrity involvement in our organization is a great benefit, as one of our goals is to raise public awareness regarding Down Syndrome and how this genetic condition affects the lives of the individuals and families it touches. We are hopeful hundreds of fans will support and register to walk alongside Captain Lee and the FITTEAM at”

Several children and young adults with Down Syndrome were invited to a VIP event with Captain Lee on 110-foot luxury yacht Relentless in Ft. Lauderdale, to commemorate Rosbach’s upcoming support and participation in the Buddy Walk. The kickoff was an exciting experience for the kids to meet the reality star, and a great way to get everyone excited about the upcoming Buddy Walk. The yacht was generously provided by Worth Avenue Yachts.

“I’m pleased to participate to help raise public awareness for Down syndrome and support the Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization and walking in the Buddy Walk in Markham Park,” said Captain Lee Rosbach.

Captain Lee’s advocacy in supporting Down syndrome awareness will be featured in an upcoming video with several children who are participating in the things they love – boating, the beach, the water, and occasionally a reality show!

There were several other local “celebrities” on hand at the kickoff. Six-year-old Olivia Dissman, daughter of Oliver Dissman and founder of Olivia’s Angel’s Foundation (, as well as 27-year-old Garrett Holeve (nicknamed “G-Money”), MMA champion, adaptive athlete, and co-founder of Garrett’s Fight Foundation ( Olivia and Garret, as well as many others will be walking with Captain Lee’s team for the Buddy Walk October 15, 2017.

Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization is a family support and resource organization dedicated to serving families who have an individual with Down syndrome. The mission is to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families by providing support, information, education, and advocacy, thus enabling each individual to reach his or her full potential. Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

People with Down syndrome are typically productive and meaningful contributors to society. They attend school, hold jobs, and participate in the world as their typical peers do. However, individuals born with Down Syndrome do have their challenges, which include cognitive delays that affect physical, intellectual, and language development.

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome, which occurs in about 1 in every 700 births and affects approximately 400,000 individuals in the United States.

 The Buddy Walk

The Buddy Walk was established by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October, and anyone can participate and with no special training. The Walk has three primary goals: to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome; to raise funds locally and nationally for education, research, and advocacy programs; and to enhance the position of the Down syndrome community, enabling us to positively influence local and national policy and practice. There is also a 5K for those who prefer to run versus walk to support the organization.

Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization

The Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization is a family support and resource organization dedicated to serving families who have an individual with Down syndrome. Or nearly 25 years, its mission is to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome and their families by providing support, information, education, and advocacy, thus enabling each individual to reach his or her full potential.

Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization is a non-profit parent support group working to enhance the lives of individuals with Down syndrome. When you support the Chapter, you help provide education, communication, socialization, special events, scholarships, and much more. Visit or call 954-825-0400.

Our Buddy Walk is held at Markham Park, 16001 W State Rd 84, Sunrise, FL 33326 – October 15, 2017. It includes breakfast, lunch, and lots of family entertainment, such as a DJ, rock wall, bounce house, pony rides, petting zoo, and much more. To register, visit or click directly to:


FITTEAM is proud to support the Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization. FITTEAM has a global mission to help improve everyone’s quality of life. The company has a vehicle to help people to get “FIT” physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. FITTEAM has positioned itself as a leader in developing products and services that will continue to be forward thinking, life shifting, and that can truly make a difference for people around the world.

Founded in January of 2015 and headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, FITTEAM is recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the industry. 

Check us out on Instagram

Media Inquiries
For more information contact Cindy Metzler at 561-271-1389 or

Employment, Health Care and Disability Policy Update: August 2017

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The LEAD Center’s Policy Update – Employment, Health Care and Disability provides policymakers, disability service professionals, and individuals with disabilities and their families with information about relevant policy developments regarding Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and related topics, with a focus on improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

The August 2017 update includes information about the release of the National Autism Indicators Report from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute; upcoming bipartisan hearings the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hold in September; various ways the government celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); HCBS transition plan updates; the release of the 2015 Annual Evaluation Report from Mathematica Policy Research; and more. Download the August 2017 Employment, Health Care and Disability Policy Update.

The LEAD Center Policy Update – Employment, Health Care and Disability is a project of the LEAD Center in collaboration with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Please share this important and timely resource with your network, via social media, etc. Want to share feedback or topics you would like to see addressed in a future issue? Please write us at


FVDD Annual Statewide Conference

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Florida’s Voice on Developmental Disabilities (FVDD) announces its annual statewide conference which will take place on Saturday, October 28, 2017, at Holy Cross Hospital, 4725 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. This will be an all-day conference, registration will include breakfast and lunch, and the theme will be “Empowering You to Be the Best Advocate Possible.”

The program is open to the general public, although CLE’s will be offered to attorneys who attend. Please help promote this Conference by forwarding this information to prospective attendees.

We will have a variety of superb speakers – including a morning town hall meeting of legislators, and other professionals, including self-advocates, will be there to train attendees in advocacy skills, legislative updates, etc.

You may register on line at – the entire program and registration fees are posted on our website.

Questions? Please call 954/975-5159 [Arlene Lakin, Esq.].

Florida’s Voice on Developmental Disabilities
PO Box 24531
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33307

Calling All Teachers

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Broward Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization, Broward County Public Schools and Exceptional Student Learning Support Division
are proud to present


Practical Solutions for Educating Students with Down syndrome
Designed to enhance teachers’ ability to educate students in the least restrictive environment

Download Brochure

Special Needs Scholarship

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The Gardiner Scholarship helps families customize education plans for their children with special needs.

The Gardiner Scholarship is available for qualified Florida students beginning at age 3 through 22 or high school graduate, whichever comes first. To qualify students must be diagnosed with one of the following: autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, Phalen McDermid syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome or an intellectual disability (severe cognitive impairment). Also, students who are deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays and who are not older than 5 on Sept. 1 may be eligible for the year they are applying.

The Gardiner Scholarship allows parents to direct their scholarship funds toward a combination of approved programs and providers they think will best meet their children’s unique needs. These include approved private schools, therapists, specialists, curriculum, technology— even a college savings account.

We are currently accepting applications for the Gardiner Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply for the Gardiner Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year, please click here.

Please note: Scholarships are awarded to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis once their applications are completed. Please be sure to advise families early, in order to receive a 100% award scholarship students must be deemed eligible no later than August 1st.

Another option is the Income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), a program that empowers low-income families to find the K-12 school that best meets their children’s learning needs. Families may choose between two scholarship options: one that helps cover private school tuition and fees, or one that assists with transportation costs to attend a public school in another county. If a family’s household income qualifies for the free or reduced-price school lunch program (185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines), or, if the family receives SNAP (food stamps), TANF, or FDPIR, the student may be eligible.

We are currently accepting applications for the Income Based Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year. Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply for the income-based scholarship for the 2017-18 school year, families may click here.

Please note: Income-based scholarships for new students are limited. Scholarships are awarded to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis once their applications are completed. Please be sure to advise families early, as we anticipate going to a waitlist much earlier than usual.

Children who are in foster care or out-of-home care, or who are homeless may also be eligible for either of these TWO scholarships.

To learn more about the scholarships, please visit

You may also view our current flier at

Thank you for helping us reach children who may benefit from our two K-12 scholarship opportunities.