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Great State: Williams Walk

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — They are the kids most likely to make friends first. “Hello pals all over the world,” exclaims Hope Hansen. “My name is Hope.” They are also the last to forget a name. “I’m Kelsey O’Halloran,” says another eager interviewee. They are also the absolute best at expressing their feelings in any way possible. “Harga harga hmpphh,” snorts Hope.

An interesting gathering took place at Stars and Stripes Park in OKC Saturday afternoon;among fast friends like Hope Hansen and Hannah Bailey, among other longtime friends Kim Yokum and Miss O’Halloran, and among Carter Pfeiffer and his big brother’s entire baseball team. CHildren and adults with Williams Syndrome came together to renew friendships and make more on a walk through the park. Kelsey shouts, “I love my Williams Syndrome family!” “How do you make friends?” asks a visitor. “Well,” says Hope, “I’m like ‘hello. Do you want to be friends? Then you just go up and shake their hand.” Hannah adds, “You always, always have to trust a friend no matter what happens.”

Williams is a genetic anomaly. One in ten thousand are born with it. Characteristics include heart problems, slow development, and spatial problems too. But those challenges stand alongside striking social and verbal skills, even musical talents. “Williams Syndrome people are like the best people in history,” boasts Hannah.

To picnic with Williams kids is to make a friend forever. To walk with them is a journey into a different world. Kelsy O’Halloran puts it this way, “Williams people have feelings just like other people.” Each of their journeys through life will meet their own, individual sets of hills and valleys. The good thing is they hardly ever walk alone. “And I say go team go!” shouts Kelsey.