KIRTLAND, Ohio (WJW) — Thousands gathered at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark on Saturday to promote the acceptance and inclusion of the Down syndrome community.

The 22nd annual Northeast Ohio Buddy Walk stepped off at 10 a.m. and continued for a one-mile walk throughout the park grounds at 8800 Euclid Chardon Road in Kirtland.

Opening ceremonies began around 9 a.m. where FOX 8’s Own anchor Gabe Spiegel served as Master of Ceremonies alongside anchor Todd Meany who sang the National Anthem.

The Buddy Walk has grown from 17 walks in 1995 to more than 250 walks held worldwide this year.

It’s considered the largest annual fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio, celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year.