Down Syndrome Association blown away by ‘Lots of Socks’ growth Loop Barbados

The content originally appeared on: Barbados News

If the Rock your Socks – Lots of Socks campaign for 2023 in Barbados is a testament to the growth in education, awareness and understanding for people living with Down Syndrome, Bajans are really pulling their socks up and walking the talk to inclusivity.

“We are so happy, so happy. This year we really felt people’s desire to support people with Down Syndrome and the Association, through not just getting their socks but their desire to purchase their socks from us, and that’s something we are going to look to broaden into the future.”

Loop interviewed the president of the Barbados Down Syndrome Association, Asha Alleyne-Renwick about the success of the drive this year.

This is telling us the public is really, really keen on helping us

The fact that many locally recognise March 21 as World Down Syndrome Day speaks volumes. It is also ‘Rock your socks Day’ and ‘De pretty socks Day’ for many Bajans, but the fact that majority of participants know why they rock their socks is a huge accomplishment for the now 11-year-old Barbados Down Syndrome Association. A teacher herself, Alleyne-Renwick says she loves to hear the children talking about getting their socks and their excitement. She said it may not seem like a big deal but passing some students and hearing a young boy telling his friend, “Yeah man, I got my socks fuh Down Syndrome Day” warmed her heart truly.

But even more significant, is that this year, many people – adults and children, went out of their way to make sure that the money spent on their socks is going directly to the local Association.

Pop up socks shop in mall

People talk about support and inclusiveness like buzz words, but this year, the Barbados Down Syndrome Association got the most calls and requests for them to deliver or host ‘Pop-up Sock shops’ as they call them, at institutions and establishments so that people could buy socks directly from them.

we have made it into our annual fundraiser so that we can run our programmes and our therapies

This is one of the main things that left Alleyne-Renwick moved beyond words. Alleyne-Renwick said that the demand was beyond what it has ever been before.

Talking to Loop News, she said:

“Our campaign has really been growing and blossoming and taking on some different angles. It has really blossomed here in Barbados.

“We would have started the first year, in the first year [in 2019], we didn’t sell the socks, it was more about wear the socks, raise awareness. So it wasn’t a fundraiser for us. So this is our fourth year that we have made it into our annual fundraiser so that we can run our programmes and our therapies and our camps and what’s not.”

Alleyne-Renwick said that they started out with ‘Pop-up Socks shops’ in malls on island and then “we invited the public to come purchase from us, but there were lots of opportunity to purchase elsewhere”. She said it’s funny, but in a good way, seeing shops and stores that do not even typically sell socks selling socks in March in anticipation of the influx of sales now for World Down Syndrome Day.

“What we have realised this year is that businesses, workplaces, government offices called us in because they want to buy the socks from us, realising if they purchase socks from us, then of course all proceeds go to the Down Syndrome Association. This is our only fundraiser that allows us to support our members and run our programmes.”

The Association has an athletic programme – Get Active with Down Syndrome. This ran right after COVID protocols ended to get the children with Down Syndrome active and moving again together. “We have had a Summer Saturday programme where we work on the educational aspect, developing fine motor skills of the younger ones. We have our older teenagers into adults working on their reading, comprehension and writing. Right now, we just started a writing workshop because motor skills sometimes, not sometimes, most times in Down Syndrome tends to be a little weak in terms of low muscle tone, so we started a writing workshop as well.”

Talking about the campaign’s growth on this occasion, she enthusiastically shared:

“This year a lot of businesses gave us the opportunity to set up shop at their locations. The demand was so great because people prefer and it is more convenient for people to just pull together their staff and have their staff purchase their socks from us, so it avoids the complication and prevents the last-minute people rushing out to buy socks and no proceeds coming to us the Association. So we went in the businesses. We had some government offices. We had NHC, NPC.

“We also had all the schools, which was a whole new dynamic this year where we gave the schools the opportunity to buy the socks from us. So we would have delivered the orders of socks to the schools depending on how many students were interested and parents just sent the money to the school for the socks. So that avoided the rush for parents.”

This year the Association went into the schools and the businesses “and we had a hotel – Divi, invited us in last year and again this year. This is telling us the public is really, really keen on helping us.”

Alleyne-Renwick extended a huge thank you to all the organisations who reached out to work with the Association this year, and she made apologies to anyone who they could not service this time around because of the great demand but small number of volunteers. She also said that she understands “retailers have to eat too as they say,” but she hopes that the businesses which also benefit from the Lots of Socks campaign, would feel so inclined as to make a donation of their sales to the Association as a kind gesture as well.

Now what does this growing demand mean for the local organisation?

Alleyne-Renwick said it’s a wonderful “issue” to have – too big of a demand.

Smiling, she said, “We are hoping to widen our pop-ups and deliveries next year, start a bit earlier, get the socks into the schools a lot earlier and of course, we always need support in terms of vehicles on the road to deliver and persons to help us service what we have come to realise has now become a nationwide campaign.”