Our Nine-Month Old Half Marathon Hero.
Our daughter Presley Grace came into this world on June 12, 2011 and changed our lives forever. After having a completely uneventful first pregnancy and amazing daughter born 20 months earlier, my wife and I had developed a life plan based on two superstar daughters. We continued to believe that until about two hours after Presley was born. That is when we were first notified that there may be a problem. Then life changed, or so we thought. The next week was a blur of tubes, lines, tests, etc. in the NICU.
A daughter with Down syndrome was nowhere in our plans. I even got to the point that I needed to talk to someone. The counselor's question was simple, and it is one I wish was asked of every parent that considers terminating a Down syndrome pregnancy. "Would you want to abandon your 'normal' child if they somehow became disabled through illness or injury?" The question was simple yet profound.
Since then, we have had time to appreciate what an amazing gift Presley has been to our family. We also realized that if we were that profoundly afraid of child with Down syndrome, we needed to get out and advocate so others would understand what we did not. The problem was that we really didn't know how to do that. It was not long afterward that my wife and I received a story from our local Down syndrome association president about an amazing father/athlete named Heath White and his daughter Paisley. Heath had been running marathons with Paisley advocating for Down syndrome for several years, and he was coming to Little Rock to run his last race pushing Paisley. ESPN was going to cover his efforts as the race would mark the symbolic 321st mile they had run.
Our Down syndrome association president asked us to meet the Whites prior to the race because my wife and I were going to push both of our girls in the Half Marathon. Until then, we had no idea what a great platform running could be for Down syndrome advocacy. Heath, Paisley, myself, my wife, and both our girls started the race in front of 18,000 other athletes with our bright-colored shirts with the words "Down Syndrome" boldly displayed across the chest and back with our motto "running down stereotypes with every step" just beneath. Over the course of the race, hundreds of people and spectators commented on the shirts, many with personal accounts of loved ones with Down syndrome. The response was overwhelming. Both of our girls were stars that day, but Presley stole the show. After the race we actually had people find us to say they cried when they saw us cross the finish line with her. And if the race experience itself wasn't emotional enough, our local news made Presley’s debut Half Marathon run the top story the night of the race. And that's how our nine-month old daughter became a Half Marathon hero to hundreds.