LEICESTER, Mass. — Leicester fourth-grader Sydney Brooks relished the opportunity to meet one of her heroes, "Glee" actress Lauren Potter, at the 16th Annual Buddy Walk and Family Picnic for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress in Wakefield on Sunday.
Along with her teachers at Leicester Memorial School and her family, Sydney joined more than 3,000 people in the Buddy Walk this year, taking steps together to support the group's programs and services.
The fundraiser is the state’s largest public awareness platform to promote acceptance and inclusion of all children and adults with Down syndrome, with proceeds helping the organization in its efforts to advocate and provide resources to new and expectant parents, training to medical professionals and students, and tools to educators.
Potter, who portrays the cheerleader Becky Jackson on "Glee," was the special guest at the walk and shared her story.
In school last year, Sydney did a biography project on Potter and her third grade teachers Tracy Steiger and Tammy Goodrich worked to set up an opportunity for the two to meet.
"They took it upon themselves and signed up with our team to do the walk and raise money, and were so ecstatic to be able to do it," said Harry Brooks, Sydney's father. "And they said, we have to be there at 10 a.m. because we want Sydney to hear Lauren Potter."
Not only did Sydney get to hear Potter's speech at the start of the walk, but she also was able to meet, have lunch and take photos with her as well.
"Sydney's 10, so for us to be able to see what this girl could do was awesome to hear," said Harry Brooks. "Like learning lines for her TV show. I got to talk to her mother, and she said she gets it very easily, and reads her lines very well."
Brooks added that now, Sydney wants to go to Hollywood to become an actress someday.
"It's something to look forward to, to see how far our children can go," he said.
Brooks also was grateful to Steiger and Goodrich for their efforts to make the meeting happen.
"We're lucky to have teachers in this town that are so into it that they take the initiative," he said. "You feel heart-wrenched that they would go this far above and beyond to walk with us. It meant a lot to us."
To learn more about the Buddy Walk, visit its website.