By Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News
They're a group of 40 fathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers who start their meetings asking about how each other's kids are doing. They make up the local chapter of DADS, or Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome, a national organization of fathers of children who have the condition.
Director Keith Askin, 37, said DADS isn't a support group; rather, it's more like a fellowship of fathers and other male relatives who share and hear each other's stories. They meet once a month at different sites to discuss everything from educational concerns to financial, medical and social issues associated with a child with special needs.
“Not only can they bond, but it allows them to get away from it all,” Askin said. “Sometimes it's just nice to go out with the guys.”
The group also provides the heavy lifting at local Down Syndrome of South Texas events, such as setting up tents, cooking barbecue and volunteering at fundraisers.
On Saturday, they'll be helping out at the 2014 Buddy Walk, held at Heroes Stadium at 4799 Thousand Oaks Drive, near Morgan's Wonderland. Former Spur Bruce Bowen is this year's honorary buddy. Proceeds from the event are to benefit people with the condition and their families.
The walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
Askin and his wife, Olivia, became parent mentors after they learned that their son, Burke, had Down syndrome. Because of the elder Askin's involvement with Down Syndrome of South Texas, he was recruited to be director of DADS. Askin said one of their goals is increasing local awareness about the group founded in 2011.
“There are significantly more than 40 families in the area with children with Down syndrome,” he said. “We want to do more to get more individuals on board.”
DADS' main fundraiser is its annual DADS Golf Tournament, which sustains the group throughout the year. Their next tourney is scheduled for April 6 at Canyon Springs.
Askin said future goals include sending a dad and his family to the annual National Down Syndrome Conference and the annual Flagship Buddy Walk in New York City.
“It's a really different experience,” Askin said. “You can see grown men that kind of tear up, talking about different experiences they've had, like sitting in a waiting room for seven or eight hours on a heart surgery, and how terrifying that is.
“I guess they feel they can share that because 85 percent of the group members are exactly the same way.”