Do you know someone who has contributed to increasing awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome in Wyoming?

If so then a wonderful way to thank them is with a nomination for Wyoming's Best Buddy. Nominees should be someone who contributes to increasing the awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome in Wyoming and can be an individual or part of a group. The intent of the award is to thank and acknowledge one person per year who works to make a difference in the lives of people with Down syndrome. If you would like to nominate someone who you believe should be honored for their work and commitment, please send their name, phone number, and a narrative describing why they should be Wyoming’s Best Buddy along with your name and phone number to:

Wyoming Buddy Walk
1150 N. 3rd St.
Laramie, WY 82072


Past Best Buddies

Click on a name to read about Wyoming's Best Buddies!

2001 - Si Gertsner

Mr. Si Gerstner was named Wyoming’s Best Buddy at the 1st Annual Wyoming Buddy Walk held in Laramie on October 20, 2001. Mr. Gerstner and his late wife Leona are the parents of a daughter, Linda, born in 1951 with Down syndrome. Mr. and Mrs. Gerstner throughout their lifetime exemplified the ideals of acceptance and inclusion for their daughter. Linda grew up actively engaged in her community with many friends and involved in many activities. Mr. and Mrs. Gerstner were also instrumental in establishing the small program which eventually became Ark Regional Services.

Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Gerstner has been an advocate for people with Down syndrome and has promoted their acceptance and inclusion in all things.

2002 - Jean and Howard Carroll

The 2002 Wyoming's Best Buddy award is presented posthumously to a special couple who were the parents of a daughter born in 1954, with Down syndrome. As was customary in 1954, they were advised by their family physician and others to place their baby daughter in the state's institution at Lander the Wyoming State Training School they were told to forget about their daughter because she had no future and would never live a normal life. They did not agree they along with other members of their family were determined to take her home and to love her and that is precisely what they did. Jean and Howard "Cash" Carroll set about seeing that Lori received all of the things any other child receives. She was loved and included in all aspects of their lives despite the prevailing attitudes of the time, which said that "those people" should be locked away in institutions. In order for Lori to receive an education, the Carrolls had to hire their own schoolteachers for her because this was before public schools provided for the education of people with Down syndrome.

Even though Lori was never in the Institution, the Carrolls spent countless hours and provided financial support to help establish community programs so that people who were living in institutions could return home to their own communities. They were instrumental in establishing Laramie and Wyoming's first group home, which served as a bellwether for the deinstitutionalization movement in Wyoming. Through the creation of a nonprofit corporation entitled "The Albany County Association for Retarded Children," they helped establish the first pre-school developmental program and adult community program in Wyoming. Howard served on the Board of Directors of these programs for many years, while Jean kept the books and necessary records.

Jean and Cash Carroll refused to believe that their daughter could have no quality of life, and against all advice and prevailing thought at the time, they chose to work to correct the misconceptions about people with Down syndrome and this is why they are honored here today.

2003 - Rob Magill

Excerpted from the nomination, by Diane McGill...

“I would like to nominate a young man who is an excellent role model for young persons who have a disability. With Rob’s permission I wrote a book called “Welcome to Rob’s World.” It is about our family experiences with Rob, from birth through 19 years old. In the book, his sister, Brenda, states “From my brother, Robbie, I have learned kindness, understanding, patience and the value of humor…He understands human nature and personal feelings and expresses his own view better than anybody else I have met. He is a wise person.”

Rob is the owner of Rob’s Forum, a business that provides motivational speaking, digital and video photography, and video conversion. By sharing his experiences, he shows people with disabilities and their families that their dreams can come true. Rob is an independent and responsible young adult who has accomplished much in his 27 years. His parents are very proud of their son and his abilities.

2004 - Dr. Steve Popish

For doing what is right day after day, Dr. Popish was nominated for the honor by Julie and Debbie Huber of Casper. An excerpt from the nomination narrative follows.

“Julie applied for a volunteer position at Popish Veterinary Clinic four years ago and was accepted into their one-year volunteer training program. She was challenged to learn about all aspects related to the operation of a vet clinic, including observation and participation in medical procedures. After completing the training program, Julie asked if she could continue working in her volunteer position and has since volunteered two days a week for the past three years. Julie’s interaction with clients and their pets has afforded her the opportunity to get to know many individuals in her home town of Casper. Community awareness was broadened when the Casper Star-Tribune featured an article and photo of Julie at work in the vet clinic two years ago.

With the encouragement and support of Dr. Popish and Dr. Schwann at Popish Vet Clinic, Julie is currently pursuing a training program in small animal massage therapy. She is planning to provide VIP massages for kenneled animals as well as pre and post op massage therapy on site in the clinic. In addition, the doctors have volunteered to help her with the business component of her contracted services, thus opening the door for her to engage in gainful employment and the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills in her chosen career path.

Julie has been treated with extraordinary dignity and respect by not only the Doctors, but the vet techs who she oftentimes works with directly as well as all other staff members in Popish Vet Clinic. With acceptance of Julie as a team member, she has enjoyed attending staff meetings and social functions over the years. Julie appreciates and is very grateful for the opportunities and support she has encountered working with her “buddy,” Dr. Steve Popish.”

2005 - Raleigh Wilson

The 2005 Best Buddy was nominated by the parent of a person with Down syndrome who, in her nominating letter said, "It's hard to put into words how important Raleigh is to Mike and what an outstanding example he has always been in promoting the ideals of Wyoming's Best Buddy and of the Buddy Walk."

Raleigh Wilson is one of the most successful Gymnastic coaches in the United States. During the 1980's he was coaching at Laramie Senior High School when a young man named Mike Hornig was one of his gymnasts. Mike was a high school student who happened to have Down syndrome. To Raleigh - that's all it meant - he "happened" to have Down syndrome. For all four years of high school, Mike was on the regular Laramie High gymnastic team (and all four years I believe they won the State Championship). Apparently, not all the teams in the state were "happy" about having to compete against Mike - but Raleigh never once considered not having him on the team.

Mrs. Hornig talks about the many extra hours Raleigh would spend helping Mike learn his routines so he could be a real competitor - and he often beat his opponents! Nora also said Raleigh always encouraged Mike to do his best and never accepted less from him "and never treated him differently than the other gymnasts."

There is a story told of how one day Raleigh came upon some "jocks" picking on Mike (rather unkindly). He took that opportunity to do some "educating and awareness promoting" to the extent that from that point on Mike became their buddy and was constantly under the care and protection of those "jocks" and great friendships were formed.

Raleigh is currently an employer of a person with Down syndrome at his school of gymnastics and takes great pride in pointing out to parents and others who come into the school the great work that Mark does for him.

Raleigh also served many years as a coach and a judge for Special Olympics and as a board member for Ark Regional Services and the Developmental Pre-school. He in all ways exemplifies the ideals of the "Best Buddy.” Therefore, I would now like to present to you Wyoming's Best Buddy for the year 2005 - Mr. Raleigh Wilson.

2006 - Jenny Ingram

The 2006 Wyoming’s Best Buddy is Jenny Ingram from Laramie. Jenny was nominated by Pete and Betty Petersen, the parents of Eric Petersen for her continuing friendship with Eric over the years.

The Best Buddy is a person who contributes to raising awareness, inclusion and acceptance of people with Down syndrome and Jenny embodies all of those qualities. Jenny first met Eric at the Albany County Public Library where they were both employed. During her time there, Jenny supported Eric in his employment and developed a friendship with him that has lasted well past her time at the library. Jenny never thought of Eric as a person with Down syndrome. She saw him first and foremost as a person and a friend. To Jenny her “friendship with Eric over the years is fun and rewarding, and both being 30-somethings and left-handers, we are bound to get along”.

Jenny has since moved on to the Wyoming Humanities Council where she is the Grants and Program Development Coordinator. She continues to maintain her friendship with Eric, having dinner, attending the Buddy Walk and supporting his work through the Ark Creative Arts Program by attending all of his performances. Congratulations Jenny!

2007 - Millette Jaren

Millette Jaren of Wheatland was named Wyoming’s Best Buddy 2007. Millette is the mother of Eli and has been a part of the Wyoming Buddy Walk since the beginning. Each year Millette works tirelessly to raise money for and raise awareness of the Wyoming Buddy Walk. Each year Millette works with other parents in Wheatland to dream up and bring to life a variety of inventive fundraising strategies including a parade float and a local dance. The dance was started before the 2006 walk and was such a success that it is becoming an annual Wheatland tradition. The fundraising not only brings in money to support the many projects of WyDSA, but also helps to raise awareness of Down syndrome.

In addition to all of her hard work for the Wyoming Buddy Walk, Millette also has become an extremely valuable and reliable resource for WyDSA. Whenever a new parent contacts us looking to be put in touch with parents, Millette is one of the first people we send them to. She is always willing to take the time to talk to new parents and share her experiences with them. So thank you Millette for all of your hard work and support, and congratulations on this much deserved honor!

2008 - Kathryn Boswell

The 2008 Wyoming’s Best Buddy is Kathryn Boswell. Kathryn was selected from among other nominees for her many years of actively promoting the ideals of the Buddy Walk. Kathryn was one of the members of the original Buddy Walk committee when she was an employee of Ark Regional Services. Her involvement and support in her years on the committee were invaluable. Congratulations Kathryn and thank you for your continued support!

2009 - Brian Scott Gamroth

The Wyoming’s Best Buddy for 2009 is Brian Scott Gamroth from Casper. Brian is well known to most of the families in Casper, Wyoming. He was nominated by Margo Perry from Casper. Margo chose to nominate Brian Scott, as he is known on his morning radio show in Casper, based on his many years working for causes and events that support people with Down syndrome. Specifically by providing PSAs (public service announcements) on his show for events that run throughout the year and volunteering to MC for many of these events, which always adds to their success and fun for all who attend. Beyond that, Brian takes the time to get to know many of the people in Casper who have Down syndrome.

In her nomination letter, Margo said, “Brian makes a positive difference in the quality of life for so many, and he does it from his heart. My daughter, Allison Perry and her friend Julie Huber, consider Brian Scott a friend, as do so many others in Casper. Both young women have Down syndrome. I hope you will consider Brian Scott Gamroth for this award. He is truly one of Wyoming’s Best Buddies.”

Congratulations Brian and thank you for all that you do for Wyoming’s citizens with Down syndrome!

2010 - Terry Cooper

The 2010 Wyoming’s Best Buddy is Terry Cooper from Laramie. Terry has worked with people with intellectual disabilities for over 30 years and spent the majority of her professional life working at Ark Regional Services in Laramie, WY where she was the Director of Habilitation Services. During her career, Terry provided leadership in the development of a nationally recognized Direct Support Professional and Department of Labor apprenticeship training program. She also spearheaded the development of an award-winning Creative Arts Program, which provides a true model for individual achievement and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

Terry is responsible for organizing the first Wyoming Buddy Walk® in 2001 and was instrumental in establishing the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. Her commitment to increasing the quality of life for people with Down syndrome was the driving force behind the implementation and growth of the Wyoming Buddy Walk. However, it was her belief in providing positive support for families that pushed her to create the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. Terry is the personification of the Wyoming Best Buddy award. She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Wyoming citizens with Down syndrome throughout her career but more importantly, she has established a base of support that will continue well into the future.

2011 - Lee and Denise Staley

The 2011 Wyoming’s Best Buddies are Lee and Denise Staley. Lee and Denise are the owners of the Taco Time restaurants in Rock Springs, Green River, Lyman, and Kemmerer and are tremendous supporters of Wyoming’s citizens with Down syndrome. Below is their nomination letter.

“Support, that’s what really helps anyone get through a difficult situation. But support isn’t just for when things are tough but for the good times as well. Lee and Denise Staley are the kind of people that you can depend on being there for it all, good or bad, happy or sad, they are the definition of what it means to be supportive, to be a buddy. And in this situation, they are Mason’s, and everyone like him’s, Best Buddies.

Our family is so lucky to live in a community that is extremely supportive of its members. Youth activities, sports groups, medical charities, name it and Sweetwater County businesses and individuals are there to help out their own. It is also very welcoming and supportive of its citizens who have special needs, helping with schooling, living, and working situations for anyone that needs that bit of extra assistance. We truly have a wonderful county that helps out everyone it can, and within that county are two of the most generous and super people anyone could know, Lee and Denise Staley.

Lee and Denise are the owners of the Taco Time restaurants in Rock Springs, Green River, Lyman and Kemmerer. They are active participants in various fundraisers and charities throughout Southwestern Wyoming. But the one organization that is closest to their hearts is the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. Lee and Denise have been donating to the Buddy Walk for as long as the Blazovich family has been participating, but more importantly they have been a great buddy Mason his whole life! For the last three years they have been having “Mason Day” at their Rock Springs stores and donating 10% of the days revenue to the Buddy Walk. They have him come in and work during their busy lunch and dinner rushes to not only promote “Mason Day” but to show everyone just how capable and willing to work someone like Mason is. It is a great time, with Mason helping out in every aspect of the stores, wearing his own Taco Time shirt, hat and name tag. He is treated like a rock star and he can’t understand why he can’t work there every day! The day isn’t just a great opportunity for Mason and the Buddy Walk, but it also gives everyone a chance to view ability rather than disability, to see potential versus unlikeliness, and hope instead of despair. Lee and Denise know that everyone has the ability to learn, to become productive members of society, and to live full and happy lives; they just need some help, someone to support them. Lee and Denise Staley are truly one of Mason’s best buddies in life and I hope that this year they can be the Best Buddies of the 2011 Wyoming Down Syndrome Association’s Buddy Walk!!”

Thank you Lee and Denise for all that you do!

2012 - Encana Oil and Gas USA Inc

We are excited to announce that Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. has been named Wyoming’s Best Buddy for 2012! The Wyoming Down Syndrome Association and the Wyoming Buddy Walk® committee would like to express an enormous “Thank You” to everyone at Encana for their overwhelming generosity and commitment to the Wyoming Buddy Walk over the past seven years!

Being selected as Wyoming’s Best Buddy means you have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to increasing the awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome throughout the state of Wyoming. It means you work toward more inclusive communities, schools, and employment opportunities. And it means you believe that each person, regardless of ability, should be afforded the opportunity to live the life that they want and deserve.

Encana Oil and Gas, through their remarkable commitment to the Wyoming Buddy Walk, has more than demonstrated these values.

Our partnership began in 2005 when Encana joined the Wyoming Buddy Walk as a major sponsor; however it was obvious from the beginning they would be much more than just another sponsor. Encana fully embraced the primary goal of the Wyoming Buddy Walk…to celebrate the extraordinary lives of people with Down syndrome!

Through Encana, the Wyoming Buddy Walk established a relationship with the University of Wyoming and in 2005 we held our recognition ceremony at Tailgate Park. Encana provided hats, lunch, and tickets to the UW football game for everyone who registered for the 2005 Wyoming Buddy Walk. For the next six years, Encana continued to provide hats, lunch, and football tickets for Wyoming Buddy Walk participants. In 2012, Encana will once again make this amazing contribution even though our numbers have more than doubled since 2005!

With the 2007 Wyoming Buddy Walk, Encana demonstrated that they not only understood the importance of the Wyoming Buddy Walk but they also knew how important it was to fund the year round projects organized by the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. Encana, along with our friends from First Interstate bank and Trihydro Corporation, started the Business Matching Program. The BMP established an incentive for corporations to increase their sponsorship of the Wyoming Buddy Walk. Corporations who sponsor at $1000 or more have their contribution matched by the BMP Leadership Sponsors, essentially doubling their support.

In 2010, we asked our friends at Encana if they would be willing to express to us what it is about the Wyoming Buddy Walk® that has created such a strong partnership. Here is their response…

Encana has developed a great partnership with Ark Regional Services and the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association in support of the annual Wyoming Buddy Walk. We made a financial contribution as the walk’s first diamond sponsor in 2005, but most importantly, we were able to spend the day with hundreds of friends across the state, enjoy lunch with them, dress them in UW gear, and take them to the game to cheer on our Pokes.

We are extremely honored to be a part of such an incredible and rewarding event, an event that has become one of our personal favorites. The day is full of positive energy, laughter, hugs, and families genuinely connecting. It is very touching and truly illustrates the importance of the Buddy Walk and the continuing need of a statewide support network.

Encana’s support of the Wyoming Buddy Walk brings statewide attention to a very worthy cause. The Buddy Walk is a great opportunity to enhance and promote Down syndrome communities, and we are thrilled to contribute to the strength and sustainability of establishing such a wonderful support network.

Encana is a Wyoming business, and we care about Wyoming people and communities. We strive to be a leader in community responsibility and are committed to continuous improvement. Through the Business Matching Program, we encourage other Wyoming businesses to be a part of a great team and lasting partnership to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

We are very excited about the 12th Annual Wyoming Buddy Walk and we look forward to honoring Encana at our recognition ceremony at Tailgate Park.

2013 - Jill Blazovich

Jill Blazovich from Rock Springs, Wyoming was named the 2013 Wyoming's Best Buddy. Shirley Pratt from the Wyoming Buddy Walk committee had this to say when presenting the award. "Over the years I have had several opportunities to present the Best Buddy to some amazing folks. I am particularly excited this year, because this Best Buddy has been a long time coming. I know that everyone is excited to get to the game, but I ask that you take a minute to join me in recognizing the amazing strides that this year’s Best Buddy has made for people with Down syndrome.

The easy and most obvious thing to recognize is her commitment to fundraising for the Buddy Walk and the Wyoming Down Syndrome Association. As leader of our top fundraising team from 2006 - 2011, she and her team have raised tens of thousands of dollars, and the impact that these funds have had on the WyDSA projects and programs is immense. Her efforts and success have inspired the competition that has made Buddy Walk fundraising in general so effective. But the money is only a small part of the impact her fundraising efforts have had. Through her efforts she has educated individuals on the amazing abilities that people with Down syndrome have. She has advocated for her son, and for the many folks that sit out in our audience today. She brought together her family to advocate and raise awareness about Down syndrome. But, most importantly, she brought together an entire community. An entire community! Every person that she has touched in some way has a new and better understanding of how alike we all are. She has brought together an entire community to celebrate and embrace all members of that community that happen to have Down syndrome.

Her efforts and influence go well beyond fundraising. She has volunteered and been available when a family in Rock Springs has had a new baby with Down syndrome, and needed to talk to someone about their experience. She has been available at the drop of a hat to do the same for others around the State when we’ve asked her to make a call. She has promoted our Educational session with Dr. Jackson so that educators in her area could benefit from his knowledge. 

She has the gift of building relationships. She is a role model for getting involved in something for which you have great passion. She is a fantastic woman with mind-blowing enthusiasm and dedication to promoting awareness and acceptance of folks with Down syndrome. As I said before, this award is a long time coming, and well-deserved."




Do you know someone who has contributed to increasing awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome in Wyoming?

If so then a wonderful way to thank them is with a nomination for Wyoming's Best Buddy. Nominees should be someone who contributes to increasing the awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome in Wyoming and can be an individual or part of a group. The intent of the award is to thank and acknowledge one person per year who works to make a difference in the lives of people with Down syndrome. If you would like to nominate someone who you believe should be honored for their work and commitment, please send their name, phone number, and a narrative describing why they should be Wyoming’s Best Buddy along with your name and phone number to:

Wyoming Buddy Walk
1150 N. 3rd St.
Laramie, WY 82072