The Boardwalk Buddy Walk (BWBW) was organized by Dennis and Sharonlee Diehl, inspired by David Samson, Sharonlee' s brother. After their mother passed in 2006, his sister, Sharonlee, invited him to Rehoboth Beach and the family created the Boardwalk Buddy Walk to welcome him here. David returned every year for the walk until travel was too difficult for him and eventually passed at age 66, in 2018.
The first Boardwalk Buddy Walk, October 2006, was organized to welcome David to the Rehoboth Beach community. Over 350 participants, including 13 self-advocates, walked the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk to raise awareness of the special qualities of individuals with Down syndrome and the need to include them in our communities. The dance and celebration on the bandstand demonstrated to the beach community how valuable all our lives are to one another. Then mayor, Sam Cooper presented David with a Key to the City as a gesture of acceptance and inclusion. Two years later, following the 2008 event, the BWBW was awarded the prestigious Governor's Tourism Award.
Chris Burke, a self-advocate TV star, celebrated the BWBW 5th anniversary in 2010 by performing for 57 self-advocates and 1500 walkers. The 2011 event was attended by the National Down Syndrome Society's then President Jon Colman. Jon stated that the BWBW was the benchmark for other Buddy Walks around the country. In 2015, current standing NDSS President Sara Weir attended the BWBW's 10th anniversary event. Soon after, NDSS named the Boardwalk Buddy Walk as the 2016 Buddy Walk of the Year award winner.
The mission of the Boardwalk Buddy Walk is to create a community where individuals with Down syndrome, can live, learn, work, and play.
Today the BWBW is an all-volunteer event, Jim Watson has taken over as Executive Director under the direction of Dennis and Sharonlee. The walk, which raises $75,000 annually, is approaching 1200 participants, including 75 self-advocates, 50 volunteers, and 75 business sponsors.
In 2022, the Board of Directors of the Boardwalk Buddy Walk Fund committed funds towards the creation of Uncle David's Ice Cream, a non-profit business, providing employment opportunities to individuals with Down syndrome, while raising awareness within the community. A mobile catering operation began in 2023, and in the Spring of 2024, plans are to open a storefront on Rehoboth Avenue.