Plenty of attractions were on offer, but Melissa Hoffman was content just to watch the bubbles.

The 3-year-old from Henderson was one of 400 who turned out at Tahaki Reserve in Mt Eden yesterday to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Despite appearances from stars of Shortland St, teen rocker Michael Murphy, and even Spongebob Squarepants, Melissa was enthralled by the bubbles blown by "fairy" Lizzie Wright.
The launch of October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month is an attempt to improve understanding of a condition that affects about one in 1000 New Zealanders.

Former aerobics world champion Brett Fairweather provided an impossibly energetic warm-up, before the inaugural New Zealand "buddy walk" in which everyone braved the drizzle to stroll round.

The buddy walk was developed by the US Down Syndrome Society. The concept has spread from 17 walks in the US in 1995 to more than 225 worldwide this year.

More than 955,000 people have taken part in the past 10 years.

Down syndrome affects one baby born every week in New Zealand, but Christel van Baalen, spokeswoman for the Auckland Down Syndrome Association, said there were no major fundraising efforts for those affected.

"It's a chance for us to show that people with Down syndrome can lead normal lives," she said.

The association plans to establish October as a regular awareness month, and make it a nationwide event.