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Walk held to raise FASD awareness
Approximately 150 people take to Fort Simpson's main street

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 15, 2011

Denise Winter said watching approximately 150 people participate in the FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) Awareness Walk in Fort Simpson left her with an indescribable feeling.

NNSL photo/graphic

Allan Menicoche, left, Nathaniel Tsetso, Marshal Nahanni-Kwasney and Thaddeus Timbre hold up the signs they made for the FASD Awareness Walk held in Fort Simpson on Sept. 9. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Most of the students from Thomas Simpson School, the students in grades 5 and 6 from Bompas Elementary School and community members walked the village's main street on Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. Winter said events such as the walk are important for raising awareness about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

At the back of the crowd, walking slowly and with support, was Denise's adopted son Sakaeah Charles Winter. Sakaeah has the most severe form of FASD in the village.

FASD is a term that describes the range of disabilities that may affect a child if the child's birth mother drank alcohol while pregnant. The effects of alcohol on a developing fetus can cause a range of physical disabilities, brain and central nervous system disabilities, and behavioural problems.

FASD has affected every part of Sakaeah's body, said Denise.

Although he's seven, Sakaeah has motor skills equivalent to a three-year-olds. Sakaeah can understand both English and French but says very few words.

"I don't hide my son for his condition," said Denise. "People need to know."

Denise said she decided to help organize the walk this year to increase awareness about FASD, particularly among young women who will someday become mothers.

This is the second FASD walk Denise has helped organize. Denise said she was happy to see approximately twice as many people join the walk compared to two years ago.

"It means lots to me," she said.

The Sanaeah Pre-Natal Program, the Open Doors Society, Liidlii Kue First Nation and Kids Corner Daycare assisted with the event.

Crystel Menicoche, the acting co-ordinator for the pre-natal program, said she helped organize the walk because it fits with the program's goal of supporting pregnant women.

As a mother, Menicoche said pregnancy is hard and it can be especially difficult when an expecting mother doesn't have support.

Menicoche said the walk turned out wonderfully.

"There was so many more people than I expected," she said.

Two Bompas Elementary School students lead the walk carrying a banner that said, "FASD is 100% Preventable."

Other Bompas students held signs they'd made with messages including, "drop the bottle and pick up the H2O", "think don't drink," and "don't drink while pregnant."

At 9:09 a.m. as walk participants passed, the Anglican Church rang its bell.

The date and time of International FASD Awareness Day represents the nine-month term of pregnancies.

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