Following in Amy’s footsteps

December 05, 2021

Can kids with conditions like Down Syndrome take up competitive sport? Yes, they can!

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Earlier this year, Amy Bockerstette created history when she became the first person with Down syndrome to compete in a national collegiate athletic championship, one of the most prestigious golf events in the United States.

Since then Amy has become a global star and an inspiration to millions of kids with Down syndrome around the world. And that includes Pakistan.

If you visit the Karachi Golf Club’s driving range in the evening, you might find a little girl wearing glasses, hitting shots with a deft touch. She is Alaiya, who comes with her dad at the KGC quite regularly. Alaiya has Down Syndrome but that doesn’t keep her away from emulating her father, who recently took up golf himself.

Alaiya, who will turn 11 next month, is slowly but surely getting the feel of it.

“She is taking an interest and likes the idea of practicing her shots with me at the range,” says her father, Ali Allawala. Ali, along with his wife Farzeen, is co-founder of the Karachi Down Syndrome Program (KDSP). One of the reasons why he has taken up golf is KDSP’s association with the sport. A few years ago, KDSP launched its fund-raising golf tournament at KGC. It turned out to be a big success.

Recently at the picture-perfect Karachi Golf Club, dozens of golfers gathered to play the tournament’s third edition to support KDSP in its campaign themed ‘A Drive towards Inclusive Education’. “Golf as a sport is becoming widely popular within the Down syndrome community around the globe. The golfing community within Pakistan is known for supporting several non-profit initiatives through the years. We imagined golf to be a great avenue to create awareness about KDSP’s work and the support we have received through it has been simply amazing,” Ali told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview.

“The response from the golfing community for our tournament has been outstanding. We have attempted to host a high quality event annually that has thankfully been praised by all golfers and supporters who have participated in our efforts. We are extremely grateful for everyone’s generosity and encouragement towards the cause.”

Golf and Down Syndrome have made news internationally thanks to the exploits of Amy Bockerstette. Does Ali believe kids with Down Syndrome in Pakistan can also pick up golf competitively?

“Individuals with Down syndrome are capable of doing extra-ordinary things. Playing golf is no exception. Amy Bockerstette’s achievements are a proof of that. She is a superstar for us and a great inspiration for all of us to follow,” he said.

Meanwhile, KDSP hosted its annual fundraiser – the KDSP Golf Tournament 2021 at KGC recently. With Candyland on board as the title partner, the event brought together seasoned golfers for an exciting game of golf, whilst creating awareness about and garnering support for educational initiatives for individuals with Down syndrome.

The game was followed by a short presentation and award ceremony where Samar Naqvi, Chief Executive Officer – KDSP, took to the stage to present a short video and a heartfelt speech on the significance of inclusion and educational opportunities for all.

She remarked, “We stay true and dedicated to our intent and vision, of creating an inclusive world order where individuals with Down syndrome are living their best life. It may all be as simple as truly seeing a human being as they are, without seeking difference, yet in the world full of divides it clearly has layers of complication. Being familiar with the range and intensity of the concerns that parents and caregivers of individuals with Down syndrome face, we realize they all actually have a mutual search, a strong commonality, a thread that connects them, ties them together, something that they are all looking for: Its Reassurance. All they need is someone to tell them it’s okay or that it will be, to validate their concerns, offer them solutions and acknowledge the progress they have made, the results their efforts have yielded, or the fruits their labor shall bear.”

The ceremony was attended by the golfers and esteemed guests, including chief guest – First Lady of Pakistan Samina Alvi, who expressed positive sentiments about the cause and pledged to further support KDSP’s initiatives for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

She commented, “Making Pakistan an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are accepted, included and given equal opportunities to live fulfilling and independent lives is a dream of the President and myself. Today, it gives me immense happiness to see the Karachi Down Syndrome Program leading the way for inclusion by providing holistic services for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.”

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