BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Today was filled with rain, but also with celebration — as the 20th annual Designer Genes Awareness Walk took place on the capitol grounds.

According to the CDC,  each year, about 6,000 babies (one in every 700) born in the United States have Down syndrome. A baby is born with 46 chromosomes, but when Down Syndrome occurs, there is an extra copy (whether full or partial) of the 21st chromosome — which generally results in increased risks of intellectual or learning disabilities, developmental delays, and other medical abnormalities including heart and gastrointestinal disorders. Each year, local non-profit organization Designer Genes holds an event to shed light on the condition, and the struggles that individuals with Down syndrome face.

“It brings awareness,” explains Designer Genes’ Executive Director Roxane Romanick, “and obviously, acceptance. We want to make sure everybody’s out there going the extra mile for people with disabilities. It takes a little bit more intention and a little bit more work — but we think there’s room to move over, make some space, and go the extra mile. “

The awareness group, based out of the Bismarck-Mandan area, was originally created roughly 20 years ago by a group of local families who had young children diagnosed with Down syndrome. The organization’s intent is not only to strengthen opportunities and provide support for not only individuals with Down syndrome, but also to aid those who support them so that both have an opportunity to learn, earn, and belong to a great cause.

Over the years, this network of families — and their annual awareness event — has grown exponentially. This year, the walk saw over 65 teams made up of those with Down Syndrome, their friends and families, and members of the community.

Roxane Romanick, Executive Director, Designer Genes

“We started with 150 people up here,” Romanick states. “One table, and we raised about 150 dollars. Now, today, 20 years later, we’re welcoming over 65 teams, people with Down syndrome, and people in our communities. We’re all gathered together to talk about supporting people with Down syndrome in our community and our state. “

Funds raised from the awareness event will be used to support the families of individuals with Down syndrome.