A couple of hundred people, including scores of students, made a declaration of respect and affection for people with Down Syndrome Saturday night at a “Buddy Walk” around the Bedford High School track.
They were inspired by Aram Varjabedian, a BHS senior and varsity football player, whose daily life with Down is defined by his favorite expression: “I Can Do It.”
That was the name of the fundraising team supporting the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, which benefits from Buddy Walks. The event has been held annually as a regional gathering in Wakefield. Organizers chose to schedule local walks as the pandemic lingers.
BHS senior Charlie Naylor, friends with Varjabedian since they were in third grade together, was Buddy Walk team captain and one of the speakers before the walk began. The two embraced before Aram said some words of thanks to his friends and family.
Other speakers were Sheila Mehta-Green, co-chair of the Bedford special education parent advisory council; and Aram’s mother Pearlene.
Pearlene Varjabedian mentioned several of her son’s current and former teachers: Allison Breaux, Aram’s reading instructor from John Glenn Middle School; Renee Anderson, counselor from JGMS; and Michael Schreiber, Bedford High School teacher and assistant football coach.
She recognized Schreiber, Breaux, BHS math teacher Patrick Morrissey, and Tom Tone, teacher and head football coach, for participating Saturday night. Varjabedian also emphasized he gratitude to the Bedford Public Schools, along with families in the community, “for supporting Aram through all these years.”
Varjabedian honored Naylor and other past captains of the fundraising team: Dylan DeGangi, William Fitzgerald, and T.J. Mead, who she said has been there for every walk over the past 10 years.
Carrying a banner that read, “I Can Do It,” participants walked the track for two miles.
Sunday, reflecting on the event, Varjabedian remarked, “I was so touched by the care, support, and encouragement, and the true dedication these young students showed. They all nodded when I stated that Aram’s being included alongside his peers has benefited him so much, and that I was sure that they will all remember the experience of learning and being a teammate alongside a peer who may be a bit different but truly the same.”
Faces in the Crowd