Community spirit

Greg Lock leads a group of his friends on a walk through his neighborhood Friday evening, in hopes of bringing the community together. Lock, who goes on walks routinely with his sister Jennifer Dietsch, has served as captain of the Buddy Walk program for people with Down Syndrome.

ERIC SPRUILL

While watching television with his mother Marilyn on Monday, Greg Lock couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the news.

After being stuck at home for a few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg’s only escape was routine walks with his sister Jennifer Dietsch. 

Greg, who is 48-years-old, has Down syndrome but is considered high-functioning. 

His hope was to get out and about, but then the death of George Floyd happened and it captivated nations. Chaos has ensued as protests, which have often led to violence and rioting across the country, became the main headline.

What Greg watched on television left him deeply disturbed. 

“We were watching the news on Monday and when it was over, we had a long discussion,” Marilyn said. “He just stood up and said, ‘Mom, would people walk with me?’ 

“When we moved into this house in December, he asked if we were going to have a ribbon cutting ceremony. I asked, ‘What color of ribbon do you want?’ I have always just gone along with whatever he wants. I am so impressed with him because he has always had a good heart.”

Greg decided to see if he could have a community walk on Thursday night and his family made it their mission to invite people on Facebook.

And so it was. At 7 pm sharp, a group of roughly 25 people had assembled in the Locks’ front yard.

Shortly thereafter, Greg emerged from the house with his best friend Mike and Mike’s wife, after giving them a tour of the house.

Mike worked with Greg for nine years at the former IGA supermarket in Chanute and drove over from Wichita for the occasion.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Mike said. “Me and Greg go way back and he has always been a great friend to me.”

Greg was delighted to see the turnout.

“We are the world. We need to come together and get things right. I am a captain at the Buddy Walk (which is where he got the idea),” he said. “I just wish we would stop the violence. No violence, no curse words, just get along like family. Watching the news, I want everyone to know that I am tired and struggling with everything going on. We need to work together and all be friends.”

Though Greg says walking doesn’t help him in times of trouble, Jennifer disagrees. 

“Who was it that came and walked with you during the coronavirus? I would come to help him because (mom and Greg) had bonded a little too much. I would come and we would take walks and have talks. It kind of helped things,” Jennifer said. 

Greg summed up his feelings perfectly.

“This is hard. It has been hard because this is our world and everyone is here. I just want everyone to get along,” Greg said.

Marilyn was also pleased with the reaction to “Greg’s walk.”

“Greg is a friend of everyone. Everyone seems to know him,” his mother said. 

And true to form, Greg walked out in front of his group of friends, interlocked his hands and led them in a prayer. He then turned around and shouted, “Who is ready to walk? I can’t hear you. Who is ready to walk?” he repeated. His words worked as the crowd replied, “We are!”

The group then took off down the street, smiling and talking, bringing together a community, just as Greg had wished.

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