Friendship Walk raises $1,420 for VCS

ARLINGTON — Dozens of participants gathered round the Legion Park gazebo for the start of this year’s “Friendship Walk” in support of Village Community Services, raising $1,420 on site for its arts and music programs.

Before the roughly one-mile walk set off for its fourth year through the sidewalks of downtown Arlington, VCS’s “Voices of the Village” band performed rock-and-roll hits from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s to show participants what their contributions will help support.

Band member Tommy Meyer changed outfits and dance styles to imitate both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, while the band received a show in turn from the Arlington Youth Cheerleading Senior Squad, who took part in the Friendship Walk for the first time this year.

“We wanted to bond as a team, and what better way to do it than by serving the community,” said Diona Reis, one of the team’s coaches. “The band members obviously have a lot of fun making their music, and it’s really cool to see that people with disabilities can do things with passion and be part of the community.”

VCS Resource Development Manager Michelle Dietz credited the Arlington Youth Cheerleaders with recruiting the most walkers (13) to their team, while the clients of VCS’ residential services program raised the most money ($300) of any team.

Arlington High School Air Force Junior ROTC instructor Maj. Mike Blue brought a couple of students to serve as crossing guards for the disabled participants in the walk, and echoed Reis’ esteem for the disabled clients of VCS.

“They still have a lot to give, and we still have a lot to learn from them,” Blue said. “Their music can be enjoyed by all ages, and it makes me want to celebrate.”

Jack King’s son, Brandon, is a keyboard player in Voices of the Village, and this year marked their second as participants in the Friendship Walk.

“Having a son with disabilities has given me a different perspective on life,” Jack King said. “It’s taught me to accept all walks of people as they are, because they all have something to add to our collective humanity.”

Disabled walkers such as Matt Petersen and Josh Catiis had far less philosophical outlooks on the event. For Petersen, it was a chance to hang out with his friends, and get some candy and soda pop. For Catiis, the tour through Arlington and the recognition of his achievement were enough.

“I liked walking through town,” Catiis said. “Plus I got to win this,” he added, holding up the medal that was presented to all of the walk’s finishers.

Proceeds from the walk will go to benefit both Voices of the Village and VCS’ Friday music and evenings with the arts programs, for people with significant disabilities who live in the Snohomish, Island and Skagit counties.

Voices of the Village is an interactive performance ensemble for people of all ages and abilities. The group performs at community festivals, fundraisers and other venues, and reaches approximately 4,000 audience members each year.


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