Today was the fourth annual Philadelphia area Walk for Williams, and it was an amazing success.
The Walk is part of an effort to raise awareness for Williams Syndrome (WS), a genetic condition that remains virtually unknown to the general public, educators, and many doctors.
I’ve written about this Walk for Williams before, in 2015, when our youngest son was honored as the recipient of the Extraordinary Gifts Award. In that post I provided a little background about WS.
The Philly Walk is the biggest one in the country, both in terms of the number of participants (there were 800 plus people estimated to be at the walk today), as well as in terms of fundraising, bringing in close to $80,000. A big thank you and congratulations to the organizers, sponsors, and the Williams Syndrome Association for your time, effort, and contributions in making this such a successful event.
The Walk took place at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. It was my first time at the Navy Yard, and it was a perfect setting. Here’s a short clip I took as people were getting ready to start the walk.
And in quite a coincidence, there was a story about Williams Syndrome just yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. The headline for the story was , “What Is It Like to Be Nice to Everybody?” and was an excerpt from Jennifer Latson’s upcoming book, “The Boy Who Loved Too Much”.
The article noted that there are about “30,000 Americans with a genetic disorder that makes them irrepressibly friendly, indiscriminately trusting and unconditionally loving. The disorder is called Williams syndrome, and it is often referred to as the opposite of autism, or as ‘cocktail-party syndrome,’ because people who have it tend to be socially fearless and driven to engage with others.”
WS does come with many troubling symptoms, including intellectual disability and a number of serious health conditions, from gastrointestinal issues to a potentially deadly heart defect.
The story also referenced a 2010 study which found that people with Williams showed no signs of racial bias, making them the first group ever to demonstrate a complete lack of prejudice.
Developmental psychologist Karen Levine once pointed out at a WS convention that the world would be a kinder, gentler place if people with Williams formed the majority of our population, and those who displayed extreme emotional distance, pathological suspicion of strangers, and a critically limited capacity for hugging (i.e., the rest of us) were the minority. Who wouldn’t want a world like that?
So I am grateful to the Wall Street Journal for publishing such a story, and helping to raise awareness of WS. Along with efforts like today’s Walk, such awareness can only help those with WS to lead happier and healthier lives.